Should You Follow a Gluten-Free Diet?

This guest post is written by Kristen Campbell.  After being diagnosed with a severe intolerance to gluten and to casein (milk protein) in her mid twenties, Kristen changed her life to follow a gluten-free diet. She found that by avoiding gluten and casein, not only did her internal health improve, but so did her skin. An active force in the gluten-free community, she co-founded, and later went on to develop natural, pregnancy-safe skin care line, Gluten Free Beauty. There are many differing opinions about to how to determine whether your body is reacting badly to gluten. But the easiest and cheapest way remains an elimination diet. This means eliminating gluten - a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, and oats (which are contaminated during processing) - from your diet for an allotted period of time. In my case, many of the improvements were almost immediate. Within days I was able to stop taking prescription medicine for acid stomach, and other supplements with my doctor’s approval. I also noticed that within the first two weeks I’d dropped those “last 10 lbs.” By simply eliminating gluten from your diet, you can watch your body’s reaction over the course of a month or two to determine whether your health seems to improve sans gluten. The tricky part is the diagnosis. The problem here is that celiac disease, the most severe form of gluten intolerance which is typically defined as damage to the intestinal villi, can only be accurately diagnosed if you are currently eating gluten. So essentially you would go off gluten and get better, then start eating it again, re-damaging the body in order to have an endoscopy and be diagnosed. The good news is that celiac is actually rarer than regular gluten intolerance, or less severe gluten sensitivity. All of which can manifest in symptoms ranging from diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, fatigue, eczema, acne, dermatitis herpetiformis, migraines, hair loss, etc. So while all of these symptoms can be painful and even embarrassing, they may clear up simply by avoiding gluten, in which case you can then work with a naturopathic doctor, dietician or gluten sensitivity expert to see if your body will also need help repairing itself through the use of outside sources like enzymes and probiotics. There are also additional testing methods, such as stool testing, which promise accuracy even when you have not eaten gluten for months, as well as simple genetic testing which can indicate whether your body possesses predisposing genes that would leave you a likely candidate for gluten intolerance. While I am not a doctor, simply someone who has been through it all, my recommendation for those who suspect they might be gluten sensitive would be to start by eliminating gluten from your diet for a couple of months. And then if you do feel that your body has shown improvement sans gluten, seek out a specialist in your area to help determine your course of action whether it is to get tested, try eliminating other foods which can correlate to gluten sensitivity (such as casein, milk protein), or begin a course of supplements to help heal your body and bring it up to optimal health.