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Should You Try A Gluten Free Diet?

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Gluten Free Diet vs Gluten Free Life

I cannot help but wonder how many people remove gluten without getting tested for celiac.  I seem to be seeing more statements from folks who are trying a gluten free diet.

Here’s my two cents, for whatever it’s worth: Pleeeeease get tested for celiac first.

*This post is not medical advice. This is only opinion. I am not a medical professional. 

If I Feel Better, What's The Big Deal? Why Should I Get Tested?

And what business is it of yours anyway, lady?!

Well, first, it’s not my business, of course. We all make different life choices for different reasons. But sometimes we make choices through partial education. 

Actually, that’s probably the definition of life itself, isn’t it? Trying this. Thinking we understand that. Trying to figure things out. How can we know everything? We just keep learning through the process of the day-to-day. 

But seriously, why should a person get tested for celiac? If your health improves when you remove gluten, what’s the big deal?

There are many reasons. 

While you may not feel the need for an official diagnosis now, you very well might wish you had one later. And facts are facts. Testing requires a person to be consuming gluten. For several weeks. Time and again I’ve heard people say they felt so much better without gluten that they just cannot imagine going back to eating it again. 

“I wish I got tested first,” is a statement I’ve heard. A Lot!

Speaking of partial education, this is something else I hear too often: “My doctor suggested I try removing gluten.”  

Eeeek! It always makes me a little crazy when I hear that. Actually, it makes me a lot crazy. And with that advice from a medical professional, why should a person without a medical degree know otherwise? A physician who says, “try gluten free” (without testing), however, truly doesn’t understand celiac. Just sayin.

The Effect Of My Own Lack Of Education

*Side Note: I am one of those who dove in with only partial education. I was officially diagnosed. There’s no doubt about the fact that I have celiac. Because I had celiac, I had all my kids tested. My girls were negative. My son’s tests were inconclusive. I didn’t push for a biopsy after the blood tests. Instead, I had him try a gluten free diet for two weeks.

He was 11 years old at the time. He was thin, but he wasn’t a kid we thought of as sick. But lo and behold, overall improvements became obvious. Canker sores disappeared. Energy increased. His chronically congested nose cleared up. He became generally happier. There was an overall sense of better and brighter.

Although my son faced his gluten-free diet in an absolutely amazing way, the question, “Do I really need to be gluten free?” came up at various times. Two gluten trials proved to him how much gluten was impacting him. The biggest trial was a 6 (or 8?) week gluten trial for a biopsy at age 19. The biopsy was negative for celiac. The reactions to his physical health, however, reminded him of how much he missed feeling well.

There had been many times between those years when I wished I knew enough to complete testing before initially removing gluten.

Without A Diagnosis, How Strict Will You Be?

Not everyone requires answers on paper, but it can be a bigger deal than we realize.

Mind games.

The mind is a powerful thing. Without a test that says, you have celiac, 100% avoidance may not always be adhered to. For those of us with celiac, avoiding cross contamination is a must. A crumb, after all, is enough to cause the body to rebel. Damage can occur whether we feel it or not.

(As in my case) it was the decades of ill health that preceded my diagnosis, and then finally having an answer, that has prevented me from any desire to go astray. Ever. For some, it is the intensity of a reaction that keeps them on the straight and narrow. But for others (especially when it comes to some who don’t have an official celiac diagnosis) the attitude is ehhhh, I don’t worry about cross contamination.

I’m not saying this in a critical way. So many truly don’t feel it is a big deal. And maybe for those living with non-celiac gluten sensitivity it isn’t such a big deal. ? (Remember, I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV or the internet.)

It can leave that wonderment. Is it that you don’t have celiac, or you don’t know you have celiac?

Gluten Free Diet vs Gluten Free Life

*Another side note: A little gluten here and there does not qualify someone as truly being gluten free. Just like those restaurant items that state they are gluten free, but not safe for celiacs. If it’s not safe for celiacs it’s not 100% gluten free. And if it’s not 100% gluten free, it’s not gluten free—at all. Again, just sayin. 

Moving on.

This is where the discrepancy between diet and life come in.  Diet, after all, is synonymous with cheat a little. Who here has ever gone on a some sort of diet? Are you still on that same diet? I’ve done Keto. I cheated. I’ve done sugar-free. I cheated. I’ve done dairy-free. I cheated. I get it. We all get it.

So, are you on a gluten-free diet (where you allow a little gluten in here and there), or are you living a gluten-free life?

When I was diagnosed with celiac, I didn’t view my need to remove gluten as diet. I viewed gluten free as a critical requirement. I viewed gluten free as a chance at life–a life I thought I had been losing.

"Gluten Free" Is Popular

With an increase in celiac testing and diagnosis comes an increase in folks who are discovering renewed health. That was my experience.  Bam! That discovery increased my need to talk about celiac and increase awareness. 

Heck, the visual alone, for me, spoke volumes. Friends watched as I went from sickly to healthy. It was obvious. I became a walking billboard. For those of us who experienced such transformations in health, our testimonials echo through the hills and valleys. And what others may hear is, gluten free will make me feel better.

“I’ll try that diet,” many say. And who can blame them. Far too many face health issues, seeking that missing puzzle piece. It may be celiac. It may be gluten intolerance. But before trying a gluten free diet, please request a test. While you may not have celiac, you may. (And besides having that answer for yourself, you would know the potential for other family members. It is, after all, genetic.) 

Health issues you may be experiencing, however, may have nothing to do with gluten. If tests are negative, you might have nonceliac gluten sensitivity. Or you might not. There might be a need to explore other avenues. *(Remember, I am not a doctor.)

A Little Rat Poison or A Lot Of Rat Poison: It's Still Poison

Poison. That’s the way it is for the person with celiac. Gluten is poison. Fact. Gluten, in even tiny amounts, causes the body to turn on itself.

Some feel it right away. “I’ve been glutened.” Some feel it hours later, or the next day, asking themselves, What did I eat? Some don’t necessarily have an obvious reaction. But for the person with celiac, damage occurs whether it’s felt or not. While I experienced many symptoms over the years and decades while living with undiagnosed celiac, the one that brought my diagnosis was silent: Osteoporosis.  

We often believe that if I don’t feel it, it doesn’t hurt me. For the person with celiac, however, a little gluten hurts you, whether you feel it or not. 

A Diagnosis Can Make It Easier To Be Strict

For many, the reaction to gluten is so intense that there is no option but to be 100%. But let’s face it, we often accept the consequences of feeling less than for particular foods. Food is powerful. I know my stomach will feel heavy after that second piece of (gluten-free) cake, but sometimes I can’t resist. On the other hand, I know that if I eat that slice of (non-gluten free) pizza, it will cause my body to attack itself. And that, I absolutely can resist.

If I only had non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or if I didn’t know I had celiac, I don’t know if I’d be as strict as I am. I don’t know if I’d have experienced the health that I experience now. Heck, a month into my new gluten-free life, I felt better than I had in years! That might have been enough for me. But knowing I needed to be 100% gluten free meant that I continued being 100%. And I was able to experience the benefit of health that continued to improve.

We learn to accept feeling less-than. And sometimes we just don’t realize we are feeling less-than.

I know how much better I feel when I avoid sugar. But am I 100% sugar free? Nope! I know how much better I feel when I exercise routinely. But do I exercise every day? Nope! I know how much better I feel when I limit grains. Do I avoid them 100%? Nope. I accept feeling less than. But knowing the consequence and the long-term damage gluten has caused, and would continue to cause, has kept me from ever indulging.

It's a Mind Thing

My dad was a 3 pack-a-day smoker. Unfiltered cigarettes. 3 packs a day. Forty years. 

He had developed a chronic cough. He tried to cut back.

He had x-rays that showed some kind of spots on his lungs. (I’m unclear of the timing and process as that was a long time ago. It was after I had moved away from home.) 

He tried to cut back. 

But when he was diagnosed with emphysema–he quit. Cold turkey. Never had another cigarette.

Addictions are strong but our brains are stronger.

It's Not Just About Feeling Better. It's About Being Better.

Like I said. It’s a mind thing.

And for me, that mind thing wasn’t just about me. It wasn’t just about what I would accept for myself. My kids deserved a mom who was the best she could be. After years of seeking answers, I now had one. I wasn’t going to blow it. I had control and I was going to take it by the reigns.

It’s your life. It’s your choice. Every day is about making choices. Not all my choices are ones that benefit me. That bowl of ice cream last night certainly wasn’t. But when it comes to something that literally causes my body to attack itself, I have control. And I take control.


Life is full of them.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Leslie

    Excellent, excellent post. I can relate to so much of this ♥

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