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It's Not A Fad!

Are you gluten free by choice or because of medical reasons? Many people only follow gluten free diets as fad weigh loss diets and don't realise the implications.

Added 26th February 2015
Updated 10th November 2020

It's Not A Fad!
Everyday I see on social media, in newspapers and conversations, someone saying "I'm going gluten free, apparently I can lose weight" or "Have you heard about the lastest diet? Yeah, it means I can't eat gluten". But for a lot of people going gluten free is a necessity not a choice, however because of these fad diets Coeliacs and people with intolerances to gluten and/or wheat aren't being taken seriously. Do any of these sound familiar....Charged £5 for a taco kit? "A little bit won't harm you" when offered a cake? "Yes we do gluten free.", "Yes, we cook it in the same fryer as the everything else" when you want a take away? Gluten knowledge is increasing, but Coeliac knowledge isn't.

I remember back last year, I didn't have the traditional Coeliac symptoms, instead I was suffering agonising stomach pains and nausea to the point I couldn't move from my bed. I was admitted to hospital, I had various tests and finally after six months off work sick a consultant suggested testing for Coeliac, the test was negative but the removal of gluten after the test cured the pain. To this day I don't know what triggered it off, I'd never had trouble with any food before until Januray 2014 (but then again neither had my Dad until he woke up one day highly allergic to beetroot) but once gluten was removed my pain disappeared. Later in the year I "trialled" returning gluten into my diet, I got a familiar agonising pain after just a biscuit. Even a crumb set the pain off, and its a pain like no other stomach ache, it's a pain so intense I can barely breathe. Even on occasions when I have accidentally consumed gluten I can straight away tell you its a gluten pain not a regular stomach ache just because the pain is so different to any other.

All the time I see these diets pop up and it bugs me. It bugs me a lot. Why would someone choose not to eat something thats so hard to avoid when they don't need too. They aren't suffering agonised pains after eating a biscuit, or running to the loo after consuming a sandwich made with normal bread so why subject yourself to it.

A few weeks back I had no sympathy for a person who had chosen to go on a gluten free diet to lose weight. She had been on the diet a few months and decided to eat "normal food" again after losing x amount of pounds, only she had hit a problem. After being gluten free for so long the reintroduction of gluten to her diet was causing stomach pain and sickness. She had inadvertently made herself gluten intolerant. All because of a silly fad diet. I've also seen stories where partners of Coeliacs have gone gluten free to support their other half and ended up making themselves intolerant. I may have sympathy though if you have chosen to go gluten free for that reason and accidently causing yourself an issue, after all you were supporting your Coeliac partner (tip: if you are doing this for your other half, keep a little bit of gluten in your diet so you don't end up intolerant, even if its just in a meal once a week).

Back to the fad diets; are they actually worth the possibility you could make yourself ill and does it actually work?

To start with the fad version of a gluten free diet started becauce some celebrities said they lost weight with it - Miley Cyrus and Victoria Beckham being the prime suspects. In 2013, 90 million Americans were on a gluten free diet, 55% of those were on it not because the gluten was destroying their intestines or causing an auto immune reaction due to an allergy or intolerance, they were following it because they believed it was "healthier". That's nearly 50 million Americans. A researcher looked further into it and guess how many actually lost weight with their "healthier" gluten free diet? 27%. Just over 13 million out of 50 million fad dietters lost weight. Little over one quarter.

To lose weight, the idea is to burn more calories than you eat. Now, if you take gluten out of a diet you are essentially removing the higher calorie foods, pizza, bread, cereals, pasta. Once these are removed your left with the healthy, nutritional foods, vegetables, fruit, meat etc, the healthier side of a diet. This is essentially where the idea of a gluten free diet to lose weight begins. However most people use substitutes for gluten, gluten free bread, cereals, cakes, biscuits etc. For Coeliacs or intolerances it is all we can eat if we want that sort of food. However if it is in no way healthier, they are actually higher calories, sugar and fat (up to 5x higher) than wheat based products. So in essence a gluten free diet is basically just a diet where eating high calorie foods such as pasta, bread, cake, biscuits (all your gluten laden foods) can be eaten in moderation, not excluded completely. Isn't this just a low calorie clean eating diet? Why yes, it is.

Pursuing a gluten free diet has consequences, do you want to clog your bowel up because of the lack of fibre? Risk anaemia because of vitamin B deficiency? Put up with poor bones and oesteoporosis because of calcium deficiency? Do you really want to risk the same consequences that Coeliacs have no choice about all the for the sake of getting a body to rival Beyonce? I know I wouldn't, given the choice.

On the other hand the gluten free fad diet is causing a few benefits for Coeliacs... it has increased the amount of gluten free products available by over double the amount than a few years ago, more cafes are aware of gluten free and have gluten free menus and gluten free diets have become more recognised, but on the other hand, the products are extorionately priced (why would you want to pay £3 for a loaf unless you need too?!), the cafes well....lets say the cross contamination awareness isn't so good in some and people might be more aware of gluten free diets but they seem to be less aware of Coeliac (how many times have you heard "what's Coeliac?" when you've been eating out?!)

Please, please, please, if you are on a gluten free diet as a "fad" diet, please do not say you know how I feel when I can't eat bread because you can't either. I may sound harsh, but unfortunately you don't know the effects it has on me. For you the end result is a 25% chance of weight loss that week, for me its a week in bed drinking peppermint tea and taking buscopan until the pain subsides enough to move again.

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