Lately, I've been wrestling with an issue. This issue is what I'm going to term "The Great Gluten Free Divide."
I find it fascinating and heartbreaking, all at once.
Division among the troops?
When I talk with people about a gluten free lifestyle, it seems like there is a "great divide" among those in the gluten free community. Some of the people, whom I'll term "just gluten free" follow what is generally considered a traditional gluten free diet. The traditional gluten free diet includes eating all types of natural whole foods, as well as processed foods that are either labeled as gluten free or are generally accepted as naturally gluten free. Some of the people I talk with are relatively new to the gluten free life, but many have been gluten free for a while…maybe even years or decades. And then, on the other "side" there are a large group of "gluten free" people that follow the Paleo lifestyle, which is a plan that doesn't include any grains (or legumes, dairy, or sugars) in their diet.
I fall somewhere in between these two camps, because I regularly consume dairy, legumes, and sugar. It has worked for me and for the people I coach, because I have carefully worked out a balanced plan and studied under multiple medical and nutritional approaches. I recognize that the needs of everyone vary, and that certain lifestyles may not work for this reason or that reason. (Please note, though…I thought I was lactose, legume, and nut intolerant…until those issues disappeared after my gut was truly healed from going completely grain free!)
However, there is a vast difference when it comes to grains and the Celiac or gluten sensitive. It's almost like a peanut allergy…if you do not get 100% of the gluten out of your system, you simply will NOT heal. What I'm finding more and more is that when I talk to someone who is gluten free, they simply are not enjoying good health yet. They still get migraines. They are still over or under weight. They can't sleep at night, or have joint pain. They have chest pain, or ringing in their ears, or eczema, or vertigo, or even high cholesterol. Some even still have pervasive auto-immune disorders. I then tell them my story with passion in the hopes that they will understand the relationship of what they are eating to the problems they are experiencing. When I talk with them and tell them my story, they seem to hear what I say, but they don't seem to want to make changes. Most often they insist that they must be different than me. It doesn't seem to register that grains could be holding them up or contributing to their issues, even when I give them multiple examples of people who have gotten better by eliminating the ease and convenience of processed gluten free foods.
It actually breaks my heart. I want them to be well. I want them to be healthy. I want them to experience this incredible gift I've received. But more and more, I don't know how to cross The Great Gluten Free Divide. Is it due to the marketing? Is it that the FDA says it's okay? (Does anyone remember when cigarettes were "safe" to smoke??) Is it that they think it couldn't be possible that food causes whatever ailment they are dealing with? (Did they forget so quickly how much better they felt eliminating gluten?) Or is it that they just don't care enough about themselves to want to change? Maybe it's just too hard to not be mainstream, and it's too hard to not have some convenience foods?
If you've been on my site at all, you will see that I am, and continue to be, extremely grateful for Dr. Peter Osborne's guidance (you can reach his blog on this link). Because of stumbling across his question, something like "Are you gluten free but not healthy yet?" I started paying attention to what he had to say…and thankfully, I got well, as have thousands of others!
So, I have to admit my heart stopped when I read this post by Gluten Dude, and all of the comments from his followers about how Dr. Osborne is a scam. As I try to do, I went walking in their shoes…I put myself back a few years ago when I first went gluten free, and remember the seemingly crazy ridiculous things my doctor (Dr. Glen Aukerman) was telling me I had to do to get healthy. It was such a big adjustment. Since he was my 8th doctor and the only one to figure out what was going on with my body, I did everything he told me to do, even though my Celiac test came back negative. And, as is commonly the case, I started to feel so much better after going gluten free; I digested things well, had more energy, etc. I had made a lot of progress in a relatively short time. But the truth was that I knew something was still not right; I still had high cholesterol, an elevated C-Reactive Protein (CRP), and I was still overweight, despite frequent exercise and limited calorie intake. Then I started to experience arthritis in my knees.
What does gluten free REALLY mean?
After being gluten free for about 18 months, I stumbled onto Dr. Osborne's Facebook page, and started to read everything and watch his videos (for free, I might add). Then I began to really pay attention. Since I am extremely in tune with my body, I notice the slightest bit of inflammation in mulitple ways, which has helped me realize what things I ate affected me over time. So, I had already started to question why all of the "gluten free" foods in the grocery store either didn't sit well digestively, or caused me to feel fatigued later or the next day. After reading his information and science in depth, in January of 2012 I went grain free (no corn or rice). Within FOUR months, I dropped another 38 pounds to a healthy BMI weight, and for the first time in my life, my cholesterol was NORMAL (I'd been checked since age 20 due to genetics). Arthritis symptoms disappeared. And guess what? My CRP was finally normal also. Every single one of my lab results (and there are many!) registered as NORMAL!!!
Because of the radical changes in my health and body, suddenly I was asked by friends and family who witnessed this to help others – their friends, family members, etc. I thought that the grain issue was only specific to me, so I had them all start out going gluten free. Not ONE of them got fully better, so I switched them all to grain free to see if they got better. And they DID!
I now run a support group for grain free, soy free eating, in which I receive weekly results from those who are staying grain free and true to the eating plan. In only EIGHT weeks of meetings, one person who said she was a skeptic (she was already gluten free) has dropped her LDL cholesterol by 40 points! There have been numerous other results, as well…everything from increased energy, weight loss, improved digestion, reduction of blood pressure medication, sleeping better, and elimination of joint pain.
After sharing these stories, inevitably I am asked, "Why can some people be okay on a traditional gluten free diet?" My answer is that I'd like to hear from someone who is on a gluten free diet (eats corn, rice, oats, etc.) and has perfect lab results in every category. Really! I want to hear from the thousands of people that have achieved 100% perfect health (I want to see their lab results!) and still eat grains. Most people, it seems, are willing to accept a form of what I term "sub-health" to be able to continue eating what they think works for them and what the world tells them is okay to eat. One exception to that is the Paleo group of people, the ones "across the divide." I never have to argue with any of them about grains and how they affect their body. Somehow, they already get it and it's not even a topic of discussion! To those starting to hear the truth about grains…I know, firsthand, that it is difficult. I know it is not the easy path. But if it is the key to getting you healthy, wouldn't you at least consider it?
So, until I have solid proof of Celiac or gluten sensitive clients that are lab-certifiably well by eating "gluten free grains"…I support Dr. Osborne 100% for his teaching. Personally, I don't pay much attention to the way he approaches it or uses so-called "scare tactics." Why doesn't that bother me? I think people with Celiac or Gluten Sensitivity SHOULD be scared. The silent inflammation is what kills! It's the breeding ground of almost every disease…ask any medical doctor that question! It's why skinny people die of a heart attack. It's why cancer takes a seemingly healthy person by surprise. It's why young people have a stroke. It's why we lose our friends and family to a host of diseases. Silent inflammation is the BREEDING GROUND for most EVERY disease that forms in our body!
I am very grateful for my journey to good health, and I am passionate about sharing it. Please, please, please listen to your body. If you have nasal congestion the morning after you had corn chips for dinner, pay attention! If you feel tired after eating rice crackers, your body is talking to you! If you get a headache after a tailgating party, pay attention to what you ate (and drank!) It matters! If your lab results are less than perfect in ANY category…consider the idea of a true gluten free (grain free) diet (and yes, this includes avoiding grain-based alcohol!)
Kudos to Dr. Osborne for continuing to overcome the obstacles and the criticism. To him I say, "Keep up the great work!" To Gluten Dude, I hope that you might consider the scientific facts behind Dr. Osborne's teaching, and that we can make a combined mission to help people get well, no matter what the label says.
My life's mission has now become, and will continue to be…to find as many ways to build a bridge that spans The Great Gluten Free Divide, and to provide awareness and knowledge as to the option of that bridge…to as many of the Celiac and gluten sensitive as I can.