Are Gluten-Free Diets Safe? And Other FAQs About a Gluten-Free Diet | What's With Wheat

Why is going gluten-free becoming so popular? Is it just the latest fad? Or is it simply because so many of us feel better when we avoid gluten that we’re telling everyone about it?

As well as feeling better in themselves, I think people are starting to realise that their kids are healthier without gluten and their babies fuss less when they avoid gluten while nursing. Further to that, documentaries like ‘What’s with Wheat?’ and books like ‘Wheat Belly’ help explain the ‘whys’ and encourage more people to take that first step towards trying a gluten-free lifestyle.

I Suspect I’m Reacting to Gluten. Does This Mean I Should Eliminate it Completely?

This is a question I get asked a lot. In children and in adults, gluten intolerance can manifest as a constant complaint (think daily headaches or diarrhoea), or it can present as a mild underlying symptom affecting mood and general behaviour. If you or your child suffer from any of the following symptoms, it could be a sign of gluten intolerance:

  • Digestive issues – bloating, stomach pains, diarrhoea, constipation or gas
  • Skin issues – chicken skin, eczema or rashes on the body
  • Mood changes – anxiety, agitation or irritability
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Brain fog, difficulty concentrating or poor memory
  • Weight loss or halted growth
  • Mineral or vitamin deficiencies
  • Fatigue

These are just a few of the possible symptoms of gluten intolerance. Did you find yourself ticking any off?

Are There Tests to See If I’m Intolerant/Sensitive to Gluten?

One of the major limitations when trying to diagnose gluten sensitivity (which is different from celiac disease), is what current available diagnostic tests can tell you about how your body reacts to gluten. Blood tests can tell you if you have an allergy to wheat, or if your body produces IgG or IgA antibodies to attack proteins in wheat believing it to be a foreign invader (a food intolerance). But gluten intolerance doesn’t show up on blood tests. So, when blood test results come back negative, many healthcare professionals will advise that there is no good reason for you or your child to give up gluten.

So the only way to know for sure whether you or your child is reacting to gluten is to cut out all sources of gluten for a few weeks (preferably 3 months) and see if you and/or they feel better without it. For some, cutting gluten out of the diet can come with big health benefits such as reducing inflammation, improving skin issues as well as digestive issues, including bloating, stomach pain, diarrhoea and gas. It could also improve behaviour and concentration in kids. Then, after eliminating all gluten for a period of time, you can try reintroducing some ancient varieties of wheat to the diet to see if any of the above symptoms return. Ancient varieties of wheat are less processed and far easier for the body to handle. You can read more about which ancient wheat varieties we recommend here.

Will I Be Missing Out On Any Nutrients If I Give Up Gluten?

What I love about a gluten-free diet is that it forces you to eat more fresh, wholefoods. Cutting out wheat-based breads, cakes and pasta means you get to explore more wholefood options including gluten-free grains like buckwheat, quinoa, rice, as well as seasonal fruits, eggs, quality fats and meat, seafood, nuts, seeds, coconut, herbs, and vegetables! You will not miss out on vital nutrients if you eat a balanced diet – and wheat does not contain any nutrient that can’t be found in other foods. Everybody should be eating a variety of gluten-free options.

How Difficult Is It to Go Gluten Free?

It’s really not hard if you’re prepared and willing to do the work. However, if you’re feeling concerned about going gluten free or it feels completely overwhelming, we’ve provided some resources below to make the whole process easier. You can also do the 6 Weeks No Wheat program to get you and your whole family started on this gluten-free journey.

Additional Resources

By Jordan Pie

Nutritionist & GAPS Practitioner