Remember when low-carb was the health fad du jour? And then it was low-fat? And then it was vegetarianism? But then it became vegan? The point is, there is always some health craze that we seem to latch onto in our never-ending quest to be skinner, healthier, tinier and shinier. But what happens when one such fad actually doubles as a serious health concern?
Welcome to the age of gluten-free diets. For the 35,000 Canadians who have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease, going gluten-free isn’t a lifestyle choice — it’s a necessity. Same goes for the 300,000 Canadians who are currently estimated to have Celiac Disease or a gluten sensitivity. The abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and all-around crippling side effects from gluten have made it so.
But with relatively so few Canadians actually suffering from the effects of gluten, it’s a little staggering to learn that we spend roughly $90 million a year on gluten-free products. Especially when studies have shown that using these products might not be so good for your overall health and well-being after all:
The products could actually be worse for you
Gluten-free products are typically higher in fat and sugar, which are needed to bind a product together. Of course, fat and sugar also makes things tastier and more palatable. What they don’t do is help your waistline or add to your overall vitamin count. If you really, really want to go gluten-free, it’s a good idea to stay away from these products all together.
Gluten-free diets restrict vitamins
When you get rid of healthy grains like barley and oats, you’re also eliminating vitamin-enriched foods. What’s worse, you’re limiting your iron intake, which could lead to other problems like anemia. Fibre also gets cut in the process, which could leave you unsatisfied and hungry — even after full meals.
It’s hard on your wallet
If you do opt for those gluten-free products, plan on forking over a lot more cash. According to the Journal of Dietetic Practice and Research, those products are roughly 242 per cent more expensive than the same products containing gluten.
You’re probably cheating without knowing it
Going gluten-free involves more than just giving up pasta and bread. Gluten can be found as a thickening agent in soups and dressings. It’s in various cereals, noodles, coffees and teas, vegetarian substitutes, boxed mashed potatoes and more. If you really want to commit, be ready to question every single thing you put in your mouth.
It can cause birth defects
A folic acid supplement is always recommended for women who are pregnant or even thinking about getting pregnant, but it’s worth noting that most of our B vitamins — including folate/folic acid — are found in breads, grains and cereal. Not getting enough of them during a pregnancy could cause birth defects. Besides, sometimes — especially with pregnancy hormones — it’s better to actually listen to what your body wants.
You could ruin an eventual diagnosis
If you do think you have a sensitivity or could be Celiac, it’s a good idea to check in with the doc before you go and give up all gluten. In order for a proper diagnosis, you actually need to have some gluten in the old gut in order to properly test for these things.
There’s a chance you’re being insensitive
You may want to talk about how great this new diet is (who doesn’t want to share how and why they feel so fabulous?!) but put yourself in the shoes of someone who has been diagnosed with Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. The smallest amount can have them doubled over in pain, not to mention the fact that it’s time-consuming, restrictive and frustrating to have to follow one specific diet for your entire life. After all, those of us who dabble in the gluten-free world can always go back and order that pizza whenever we want. All it will cost us is twenty bucks and a little guilt.