The Truth About Gluten

If you keep up with the changing trends of nutrition, you’ve heard “gluten” mentioned a few times lately. People love to be part of the next new trend whether it’s really beneficial to the body or not… you’ve seen it with low-carb, low-fat, high-fat, grapefruits only, and the list goes on.


The whole reason for starting this blog was so that you could find trustworthy information, backed up by science and tested by a real human being. Let’s break down the latest headlines on gluten… has it truly given you a “wheat belly”? How about a “grain brain”?

First things first… what IS gluten?


If you haven’t seen the Jimmy Kimmel video on this… check it out now. So stinkin’ hilarious.


Gluten is simply the protein found in wheat. It is comprised of gliadin and glutenin, giving elasticity to dough & helping it rise.

Those that have a true allergy to gluten suffer from celiac disease.

You can easily have a blood test done to see if your symptoms are a result of celiac disease. However, if the test comes back negative, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are not affected by gluten.

If you have been suffering symptoms that seem related to gluten, it may be possible that you have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’).

Research estimates that 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity. That’s 6 times the amount of Americans who have celiac disease.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity has been coined to describe those individuals who cannot tolerate gluten and experience symptoms similar to those with celiac disease but yet who lack the same antibodies and intestinal damage as seen in celiac disease. Early research suggests that non-celiac gluten sensitivity is an innate immune response, as opposed to an adaptive immune response (such as autoimmune) or allergic reaction.

I’ll be honest and tell you when all of this gluten stuff started popping up, I thought it was ridiculous. As registered dietitians, we are taught to include everything in moderation, choose whole grains and include them often… especially in an athlete’s diet. Gluten sensitivity? Really? Either you have celiac disease or you don’t. Here we go having to deal with the newest way to cut out a food group or reason to make lots of “gluten-free” processed foods to sell at the grocery store.

If you watched the video above, yes, lots of people are taking it on as a trend. However, the research is showing us that it IS a real problem. Many people suffer from headaches, bloating, digestion problems and more due to gluten sensitivity.

Improvements are being found in those with the symptoms above as well as those suffering from inflammatory bowel disease, fibromyalgia, migraines and fatigue.

Research presented by Columbia University clinicians at the 2012 American Academy of Neurology meeting found that 56% of people with gluten sensitivity, and 30% of those with celiac disease, suffered from chronic headaches compared to 14% of people in the control group. About 23% of those with inflammatory bowel disease also reported chronic headaches.

If you’ve been wondering about gluten or whether you may have a sensitivity, here are the symptoms to consider:

Skin rash
Mouth sores
Joint pain
Discolored teeth
Foggy brain

Personally, I’ve had really bad headaches for the past 6-7 years. A couple of years ago, I started to seek medical help… I had MRIs done, saw plenty of MDs (neurologist, internal medicine, sleep doctors), and came up with no result. I was left with a bottle of pills for my “migraines” that really doesn’t work or help anyway.

Like I said, I was against this gluten-free movement at first… wanting to avoid the next “trendy” nutrition claim.

After a lot of reading and the newer research coming out, I decided why not try cutting out gluten? Why not just give it a shot? And I don’t mean buying lots of packaged “gluten-free” foods to carry around with me. I mean… limiting grains and when I do eat them, double-checking they are gluten free (oats, quinoa), while including a lot more produce and lean meat. It’s definitely not easy. I’ve had more than a couple slip-ups but it’s a work in progress.

I’m happy to say in the past 6 weeks, I’ve had one really bad headache instead of the 1+ per week. I’ve lost 8 pounds without really altering my exercise habits and the daily morning “foggy” brain has become SO much better.

While research absolutely has an important place in science, there’s also something to knowing your body and feeling the change that happens when you’re aware of what’s going into your mouth.

This starts the first of a few posts on non celiac gluten sensitivity on the blog! I want to show you how easy it can be to try out a gluten-free lifestyle if you’re interested.

If you have a similar story or a favorite gluten free recipe, please email me or comment below! I would love to hear your stories. Have a great weekend!



  1. Alexandria Strudwick says:

    I really appreciate you including the “science” of gluten in this post. As a pastry cook and baker, I often run into customers with gluten-free diets and have become accustomed to having gluten-free items readily available. I’ve also got a killer gluten free bread recipe if anyone is looking. Thanks for the insight Christina!

  2. Mary Schoen, MS, RD/LD, CNSC says:

    Thanks Christina for writing this! It was like reading my own thoughts. 😉
    My husband has non-celiac gluten sensitivity that we discovered about 4-5 months ago, and I thought…well, if anyone can help him, it’s his Wife, RD!
    He definitely has slip-ups every now and then, but no where near the GI pain he used to have.
    Glad your headaches have eased! I remember when you first got them!


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