Elimination Diet-Dairy and Gluten
I am currently on day 17 of 21 of the elimination diet. I have to say for the most part I have felt great! I have not been starving, I have not felt bloated. I'll tell you what I have learned, I LOVE coffee and I want it back!! I love caffeine and caffeine loves me. I'll stick with my dairy free creamer but for the love, give me caffeine. Let's go through two of the biggies we cannot eat on the elimination diet....BUT FIRST let me remind you that the point of this diet is to help identify food triggers and thus heal your gut. It is not a forever diet (unless you have multiple food allergies).
~ DAIRY: 25%-90% of the population has some sort of lactase deficiency. This is not an allergy or a sensitivity it is an intolerance because you cannot break lactose down. This includes fermented dairy such as yogurt and sour cream because of the casein (a milk protein). Research is still being done on casein but for these three weeks just stay away from it all. Dairy intolerance causes GI symptoms: bloating, gas, upset stomach. There are plenty of dairy substitutes. We usually have at least three different kinds of milk in our house...currently cows milk (I am not sure how to start limiting this from my kids since I'm fairly certain my youngest has milk issues), almond and coconut. You can have Ghee which is clarified butter. I am determined to try to make it so stay tuned...I keep forgetting to find cheese cloth. You basically boil the butter down to get rid if the milk proteins so it is safe to eat. I LOVE butter and so I am eager to see how it tastes, although slightly apprehensive because if it tasted just like butter don't you think more people would be eating it?
~GLUTEN....Oh gluten....I have to say one thing right off the bat...just because you eat gluten free does not mean you are eating healthier!! (by the way this goes for vegetarian as well...there are plenty of gluten free and vegetarian foods that are packed with nutrient poor binders and fillers).
Gluten includes barley, rye and wheat. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where gluten damages the small intestine. We have a bunch of finger like protrusions in our gut to help increase absorption and gluten will damage these and flatten them so you have less absorption. This can create major problems including leaky gut, decrease vitamin/mineral absorption, diarrhea, abdominal pain, thyroid problems, mood disorders, diabetes, skin rashes to name a few. It is estimated that 1% of the population have celiac disease. The interesting thing is 1/3 of the population are genetically susceptible to developing celiac...BUT only 2%-5% of those people develop the disease. So there are other contributors! More later.
It looks as though gluten sensitivity is on the rise. There are many postulated reasons why. One reason may be an over diagnosis. There was a study done out of Italy with 392 patients who believed they had a gluten sensitivity. Of those 6% had celiac and 2 had a wheat allergy. 7% had a gluten sensitivity but the crazy thing was that 86% of people who thought they were sensitive to gluten could tolerate it without negative health consequences!! Their gut issues were related to something else. Other reasons for the rise in gluten sensitivity are increased gluten in wheat (from how we grow the wheat), increased leaky gut from pesticides and processed foods, earlier introduction of gluten in our children, and our obsession with sanitizing to name a few. And don't get me wrong, I am the mom who whips out sanitizer after a play date at the trampoline park, for the love it is flu season! On the other side of the coin it is estimated in some studies that up to 20% of the population is gluten sensitive. And so honestly it is probably somewhere in the middle. There are hypothesis that some people are actually sensitive to other things (FODMAPs) rather than gluten, but that is for a future article.
No one digests gluten peptides completely, but what determines if this creates a problem? According to Alesso Fasano, an Italian pediatric gastroenterologist who is the director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at Massachusetts General (mouth full!), there are three important things that decrease our risk for gluten sensitivity (and many other problems such as autoimmune disorders):
1. A diverse microbiome (the bacteria that is in our gut) created by the food we eat and the chemicals we are exposed to. We are learning more and more about the importance of that tiny little environment living in our colon. 70% of our immune system is in our gut and this microbiome regulates our immune response to outside "intruders".
2. An intact barrier in our gut (no "leaky gut"). The elimination is used to heal a leaky gut.
3. Normal functioning immune system/no genetic predisposition. This is not completely in our control, but we can try to create a healthy immune system with diet, sleep, and rest.
Gluten is not an enemy to everyone, nor is it the answer to everyone's bloating, but it definitely is for some and the elimination diet is a way to investigate your own intolerances!
And back to an earlier point...the goal is to eat REAL food without a list of ingredients on it and especially ingredients we cannot pronounce. So please do not just substitute gluten free alternatives at the grocery store thinking you are eating healthier.
This post may be a little science heavy so feel free to ask me questions in the comments!!
And please do not forget that this information is meant for education not personal medical advice. Before starting any diet please talk with your physician.