Dr. Erika Schwartz is a leading national expert in wellness, disease prevention, and bioidentical hormone therapies. Dr. Schwartz has written four best-selling books, testified before Congress, hosted her own PBS special on bioidentical hormones, and is a frequent guest on network TV shows.

Tags: Going Gluten Free

Going Gluten Free

By Tuesday, 06 December 2011 10:36 AM Current | Bio | Archive

What do tennis pros Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, men's pro cycling team Garmin-Transitions, golf star Sarah-Jane Smith, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, and half of the celebrities in Hollywood have in common? They all follow a gluten-free diet.

Gluten-sensitive enteropathy (GSE), also known as celiac disease or sprue, leads to the malabsorption of nutrients in the small intestine due to an intolerance of gluten. An estimated 1 percent of Americans (1 in 100 people) suffer with some form of gluten sensitivity. The purist medical diagnosis is made only when the pathology results of a small bowel biopsy prove its presence.

However, the test is quite painful and often unnecessary because it eliminates too many people who actually benefit from trying a gluten-free diet, and there is no downside to trying the diet and seeing how it affects you.

The most common symptoms of gluten intolerance are body aches, fatigue, headaches, joint or muscle pain, bloating, diarrhea, heartburn, and other digestive problems. Many autoimmune illnesses like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders, and diabetes have been connected to gluten intolerance in some scientific studies.

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is a combination of two proteins: gliadin and glutenin. Both are found in wheat, barley, and rye plants. Their presence makes dough elastic and allows leavening while giving chewiness to baked goods. People who are gluten sensitive cannot properly digest these foods, leading to the symptoms described.

Americans — athletes and mere mortals alike — hail a diet high in carbohydrates with bread and pasta leading the hit parade. Initial fears associated with the entry of gluten-free diets revolved around the potential loss of B-vitamins, iron, fiber, and the carbohydrate/energy connection.

For more than 50 years, consumption of carbohydrates during training or competition have been considered essential in maintaining energy, blood-sugar levels, preventing fatigue, and providing quick recovery. But as research around this topic advanced, so did information rebuffing fears that top athletic performance was impossible to achieve without carb consumption.

Gluten-free diets are more likely to increase the amount of energy production, improve vitamin and mineral absorption, and boost immune system and hormone balance simply by reducing the stress on the intestine caused by gluten, leading to better absorption and energy production.

As data in support of gluten-free diets grew and my patients extolled the virtues of going gluten free in their overall health plans, I wrote the Hormone Friendly Diet in 2009.

More than 25,000 patients to date attribute miraculous results to it in as little as 30 days. Patients with intestinal issues, weight gain, insomnia, and hair loss found relief with hormones when teamed up with the Hormone Friendly Diet, which involves going gluten free.

A gluten-free diet leads to improved digestion and better absorption of nutrients causing better overall physical performance. Clinically, improved performance in people who eat a gluten-free diet is unquestionable.

A gluten-free diet is not as restrictive as you might think. It includes all varieties of rice, organic corn, flaxseeds, quinoa, tapioca, potato, amaranth, tofu, and nuts. Benefits of eating gluten free include:

• Improved absorption of nutrients. As a result your body functions more optimally.
• Decrease in hypoglycemia that follows intense exercise or consumption of high amounts of carbohydrates.
• Stabilization of blood-sugar levels, leading to increased muscle strength and stamina.

More Gluten-Free Foods

Great gluten-free foods include:
• Fresh or flash-frozen vegetables without sauce
• Dried beans and lentils
• Fresh, dried, or frozen fruits
• Whole grains such as certified gluten-free breads, cereals, pastas, granola, oats, millet, sorghum, and corn tortilla
• Eggs
• All nut butters
• Cold pressed oils and apple cider vinegar
• Chicken, beef, fish, and pork

When looking for gluten-free products, read food labels. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act requires that the word “wheat” be on the food label if wheat is used in the food. Gluten-free foods are labeled as such.

Try following my gluten-free diet for a week, then go on my 30-day diet and see how you feel. Most people who try it — including me — tell stories of miraculous improvement in their symptoms and overall sense of well-being.

Unless you are mortally allergic to gluten, you can certainly splurge occasionally and have a slice of pizza, a bowl of fresh pasta caccia e pepe, or panettone at Christmas. It won’t kill you and you’ll enjoy going back to your gluten-free diet even more. Remember, it’s all about balance.

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Some people who go on a gluten-free diet, including those who are not sensitive to wheat products, report feeling better than ever. Should you go gluten free?
Going Gluten Free
Tuesday, 06 December 2011 10:36 AM
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