I received a lot of encouraging feedback on my post on The 10 Reasons You’re Not Staying On a Gluten Free Diet so I wanted to follow up that up with a moreindepth discussion. I’ll start out with Reason #10 and work my through them as time (and your interest) allows.
Here’s an excerpt from the post to refresh your memory:
At first glance it would seem reasonable to stop the gluten free diet if you’re symptoms are not improving. But, let’s ask a couple of questions first. First, how long have you been gluten free? Second, have you really been gluten free?
One reader suggested that I should add the question – “Am I not seeing results because of other grains/allergies?” I agree that this is something that should be considered so we’ll include it in this article as well.
Full disclaimer here: I have absolutely no medical training. I’ve just been cooking gluten free for eight years and eating gluten free for 5 years. That being said, I do read a lot of emails from all of my readers so I have a general idea of what happens when you go on a gluten free diet. Some of your symptoms may clear up quickly – within a few days. Other symptoms take longer to heal – 3 to 6 months. Other symptoms may never heal, especially if they are the result of nerve damage. Following are a few quotes from emails I received last week.
My daughter presented with all the celiac symptoms, yet when tested , came back negative. We tried the gluten free lifestyle, and stuck to it, and believe it or not, it took 4 months to heal her system. – Anne in Canada
I want to let others who are new to celiac disease to hang in there with the diet. It took me exactly six months to finally get back to feeling normal. The diet DOES work! – Phyllis
I have a wheat allergy and I saw complete resolution of bloating and abdominal pain within 3 days. John also experienced relief from his celiac symptoms fairly quickly. Many of my readers also see reduction or relief of symptoms within a few days or a few weeks, so it’s not always a long process.
Another reason that you may not see an improvement on a gluten free diet, is that you may not actually be gluten free. In order to know that you are gluten free, you need to be sure that the food that you eat is gluten free from the moment it is produced to the moment it enters your mouth. This will require that you become familiar with looking for Gluten Free labels, learning to interpret the many allergy manufacturing warnings, calling manufacturers that don’t provide any allergy information, and making sure that gluten in your kitchen is not making it’s way into your food.
This is a lot to figure out. It is. (That’s why the chapter in my right sidebar of my blog that deals with this is the longest chapter) But, to really be sure about whether gluten is causing your problems you need to learn about all of this stuff, do it, and then patiently wait to see how your body reacts to no gluten.
The further I go into my gluten free journey, the more clearly I realize that the gluten in wheat, barley, or rye is NOT the only food that can be/is damaging to one’s health. All grains (and some other foods) contain a protein called lectin, which is basically a low-level toxin that the plant produces to discourage animals (including humans) from eating it. Lectins can cause serious gut issues and you might not find complete relief from your symptoms until you eliminate all grains. Here’s a great article about lectins, what they do to your body, and how to limit them in your diet. Here’s another article about how traditional food practices like soaking and fermenting can help reduce lectins and other harmful aspects of grains.
Casein, a protein in cow milk, can also cause symptoms similar to celiac disease. Many of my readers are also allergic to soy, rice, corn, eggs and nightshades. Others have to strictly avoid sugar and yeast. There are a plethora of possibilities and you may need to consider whether these foods AND gluten are causing your ill health.