The one thing I didn’t realize before gluten and I broke up forever was how swollen my body was, just from gluten. You will often find people who lose several pounds right after eliminating gluten from their diets — this is mostly due to the water they’ve been retaining, and, frankly, should be a clue to many of us about what impact gluten-containing ingredients have on our diets (see Tip of the Week below).
Chronic inflammation is a leading contributor and/or side effect of a host of illnesses, yet is not well understood by many doctors (and their patients). Problems start when your immune system overreacts — your white blood cells are called to action, yet don’t have a problem to solve. Mobilized, they start attacking other cells or organs. This out-of-balance issue can be caused by excess weight, anxiety, pollution, including cigarette smoke, or autoimmune or other diseases.
The result is pain and poor health. A certain level of inflammation is a natural, healthy process. White blood cells do what they have to do to solve problems. Chronic inflammation leads to other problems. This includes diabetes, depression, heart disease, and even cancer. At a bare minimum, it can impact your overall energy levels and body function.
I have several friends and acquaintances who are on gluten-free diets to combat the effects inflammation has on their bodies. Significantly, people with Lyme disease, Lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or other autoimmune diseases are often recommended gluten-free diets in addition to their normal treatments. The idea is to eliminate foods that lead to inflammation.
The problem, of course, is that switching out one inflammatory item (gluten) for others doesn’t solve the problem. And, I will note that you need to work in conjunction with your doctor. There is plenty of advice on these Internets, and some of it (including mine) is good from a layperson’s perspective, but should not be construed as medical advice…even if the person giving the advice is a doctor. They don’t know your specific issues.
If you are gluten-free to reduce inflammation (or trying to reduce that bloated, icky feeling you get from inflammatory foods), removing gluten from your diet is only one step. You need to focus on good protein, veggies, fruits, nuts, and good fats. Avoid processed foods that focus on flours and processed sugars. Oh, and yeah, that includes diet sodas. Those, if I may, are the work of the devil, and do more harm than good.
(Also, if you are gluten-free to avoid inflammation, don’t cheat. It’s not helping you or your doctor if you don’t follow instructions.)
You’ll notice I mentioned good fats. Try to avoid seed oils (corn, soy, canola) in favor of olive, coconut, or avocado. Yes, these are more expensive, so I balance my oils: a small amount of canola for cooking, olive oil for salads, coconut oil for some cooking, and avocado oil I get the old-fashioned way: we eat a lot of avocado in our household!
For many people reducing dairy helps with inflammation. Listen to your body here. I have added a extra helping of yogurt (Greek, non-sweetened) to my diet. Generally, the problem is non-fat dairy products that have fillers or added sweeteners. Avoid these to reduce inflammation.
Again, I am not pretending to be a doctor here, and how you approach your diet — especially if you are dealing with a serious illness — should be be done after consultation with a medical professional.
Tip of the Week
It’s not just gluten that has an impact here. Rice and other refined gluten-free products can impact body inflammation. Pay attention to how your body reacts to these foods — I feel the impact of rice very quickly these days since I’ve cut back on that particular food.
Gluten-Free Meal of the Week
Clean proteins, fruits, and vegetables are key aspects of an anti-inflammatory diet. One of my favorite proteins when I’m needing a boost is fish, and for some reason I am craving a Niçoise salad like nobody’s business! This salad contains a mix of veggies and proteins, including tuna and egg.
It’s also a salad that can be as fancy or as rustic as you please. It’s pretty when neatly composed on a platter, but just as delicious tossed. And, as you surely can guess by now, it’s customizable. Swap out the tuna for salmon, switch to veggies that make you happy, play with different types of dressings.