3 Reasons Why Your Gluten-Free Diet Isn’t Helping
Does this sound like you? You’ve struggled with digestive problems for a while, and you’ve been diagnosed with IBS. Your doctor told you to reduce your sugar and fat intake and increase your consumption of fiber. You tried that, and it made your gas, bloating, constipation, and diarrhea worse. Then, you decided to go gluten-free.
You know gluten is a problem for many people with IBS other digestive problems, so you were hopeful it would ease your pain. You replaced all of your gluten-containing foods with gluten-free alternatives and hoped to be cured. However, you were seriously disappointed when you still felt miserable and your symptoms had not improved one bit.
If this sounds like you, then don’t feel bad. This was me a few years ago. The very first functional medicine practitioner I went to see decided to run a food sensitivity test on me because he figured most of my IBS symptoms were caused by certain foods I was eating. Not surprisingly, the results came back to show that I had an intolerance to gluten and dairy.
I was so excited to see these results because I thought I had found the underlying problem. If I just removed gluten and dairy, I would be healed! Unfortunately, that was not the case. I will say that eliminating gluten alleviated my daily headaches, but it did not fix my IBS.
I was so frustrated because I was doing everything “right”. I replaced my ice cream with non-dairy ice cream. I replaced my bread and pasta with gluten-free versions. I replaced all of my other processed foods with “healthy” processed foods that contained zero gluten or dairy.
I didn’t know what else to do. In fact, my symptoms started getting worse!
I don’t think I’m alone in this scenario. I’m pretty sure this is a common mistake that many people make. We think that gluten-free equals healthy. When in fact, that’s not always the case. Processed food is still processed food regardless of whether or not it has gluten.
These foods are still loaded with sugar, refined oils, and other problematic grains that are going to wreak havoc on a damaged gut.
Another reason going gluten-free doesn’t heal IBS is because many people with IBS have leaky gut. Your gut is damaged and it needs to be healed. In the case of leaky gut, your small intestine forms larger than normal holes or openings. These openings start to let large food particles, bacteria, and toxins into your bloodstream. This causes an inflammatory response throughout your body.
Leaky gut can contribute to digestive problems, headaches, joint pain, anxiety and depression, and skin conditions. It can also contribute to a large number of food sensitivities that may go away once your heal your gut.
Finally, many people with gut issues like IBS have some type of infection as the underlying cause. There are a number of different gut infections, such as parasites, pathogenic bacteria, yeast overgrowth, and SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
The most common infection found in people with IBS is SIBO. In fact, roughly 84% of people with IBS have SIBO. In order to resolve your symptoms of bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea, you must treat the infection that is causing the problems, and often times, diet alone won’t cut it.
The best way to do this is with a combination of diet and antimicrobials (either pharmaceutical or herbal).
Now, while gluten-free is not a magic cure, it is still critical to avoid gluten while you are healing your gut.
Gluten, along with other grains, sugar and starches will feed any type of gut infection and promote the growth of these bad bugs. Additionally gluten is a primary contributor to leaky gut. It is very aggravating to your GI lining and causes a lot of inflammation.
However, gluten is not the only thing you will want to remove. During this time of healing, you want to make sure you are fueling your body with nourishing, anti-inflammatory foods and avoiding any food that is pro-inflammatory.
That means you want to consume whole, real food in the form of animal protein, healthy fats, cooked vegetables, and fresh fruit. You want to eliminate all gluten and other grains, dairy (especially lactose), soy, sugar, and all processed foods.
Eating this way will significantly reduce your symptoms while you are taking the steps to heal your gut and treat any infections.
Many people also find that taking it a step further and consuming only Low FODMAP foods really helps to reduce the bloating associated with IBS.
So, while eliminating gluten is critical to healing, it’s typically not that easy. Instead, try incorporating a paleo-style diet and working with a functional medicine practitioner to perform necessary testing to uncover the root cause of your symptoms.
To learn more helpful steps you can take to start healing your body, then be sure to grab my FREE guide “Getting a Grip with Gluten – Go Beyond the Gluten-Free Diet and Learn How to Heal and Thrive”. Click below.
About Jen Broyles, CHC
Jen Broyles is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and is on a mission to help people regain their health naturally, specifically in the area of digestive wellness. Her personal story is what inspired her to educate and guide others. She dealt with chronic digestive issues for over 10 years, and it was significantly affecting her quality of life. She returned to school to study nutrition, started doing her own research, and trained with functional medicine practitioners. She now helps clients restore their health naturally through diet and lifestyle changes and necessary diagnostic testing to uncover the root cause. She is a firm believer in the role that real food, a balanced lifestyle, and a positive attitude plays on overall health. You can visit her website and blog for FREE digestive wellness tips, recipes, and healthy living advice. Jen offers private health coaching to individuals who are struggling with chronic digestive problems as well as an exclusive online program designed to Heal Your Digestion.