Did you know that if you have coeliac disease or are gluten sensitive, excluding gluten from your diet might only be the first step in returning your digestive system to full health? For many people, especially coeliacs, and this is our experience too, not eating gluten just isn’t enough. This can be daunting, especially after having put in so much effort removing all sources of gluten from your diet. After too many visits to the dietitian, a FODMAPs diet and an elimination diet later (as was my experience), there can still be problems.
We're on a mission to heal our digestive systems. We're going to reduce inflammation and repair the good bacteria. We learnt a lot from the The Gluten Summit and we're putting it to practice!
Examining your body’s response further
Lets starts with a look at what was happening inside when your digestive system was reacting to gluten. If you have experienced gluten sensitivity it means your body was reacting to gluten like it was a foreign body, trying to remove it from your system. Your body's immune response can cause inflammation creating disruption to the gut’s bacteria and even increasing the permeability of the intestine (otherwise known as leaky gut). This allows things into the blood stream that just shouldn’t be there, such as food particles and antibodies.
There are two ways inflammation occurs. Those with non-coeliac gluten sensitivity respond with innate immunity, think of these as the ‘light weapons’. This is the body’s first immune response to battle illness but it doesn’t sustain a long fight. Those with coeliac disease respond using adaptive immunity. This is the body’s second response to fighting foreign bodies. It uses antibodies, think of these as the ‘customised weapons’, to fight illness over a sustained period but in those with coeliac disease this response destroys tissue rather than the foreign body due to a miscommunication. Both innate immunity and antibodies cause disruption in the digestive system (and at times other parts of the body).
As such, removing gluten is only the first step. The second step is to start the healing process.
Leaky gut is thought to be the ‘missing link’ when it comes to developing coeliac disease. So far we know that you need two things to develop coeliac disease; the right genes (the genetic markers are HLA DQ2 and HLA DQ8), and the trigger, which is gluten. However, there are plenty of people who carry the gene and eat gluten but never develop coeliac disease. To explain this, the current train of thought is that a third condition must also be present to develop coeliac disease, a permeable intestine. This can be caused by a myriad of things, such as; antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications, stress, a parasite in the gut, etc.
How do you repair your digestive system?
Well, you start by saying goodbye to foods that cause inflammation in the gut. Think of these as anything that causes a large spike in your blood sugar (or has a high glycemic index).
- Grains, this includes any gluten free alternatives such as rice, corn, sorghum, amaranth, etc.
- Milk and other dairy products.
- All sugars and sweeteners, natural (including honey and maple syrup), refined and most definitely artificial.
- All processed and packaged foods that are prepared with preservatives, additives and other food chemicals, including sauces, dressings and condiments. So that is pretty much all processed foods!
- Caffeine (oh no, not our beloved coffee).
Worried that it is more like a list of what you can’t have?!
Here is the list of what you can eat. Think about this as though you should only be eating 100% whole foods, minus the dairy because that can be known to unsettle the digestive system.
- Meats and poultry
What is a good timeframe to follow this plan for?
This is a bit of a good journey for us so we are going to aim to eat these foods and share some delicious yet healthy recipes for a month. Our job (this blog) means that we will have to start eating gluten alternative foods again at some point, but hopefully this change will become the bulk of our daily diet.
So, why is this going to be difficult for us
- We have some major sweet teeth amongst us. At the first sign of tiredness we are likely to reach for something sugary. In fact, were did I hide those sherbets...
- Milk and caffeine are going to be a very hard to give up. Especially with an addiction to a good latte and a daily need for a caffeine fix.
- Our job requires a certain level of consumption of gluten free packaged foods, so that we can be experts on what is great and what isn’t so great. We don't want to get too behind in the coming month!
- We aren't so worried about removing grains but more so the sheer volume of vegetables we are going to have to stock in the fridge means we'll need to find more time to visit the markets regularly to get the best produce! But that's not a bad thing at all!
- We are coming off the silly season, when our food attitude has been 'oh well, it is Christmas, I am going to eat what ever I like' (obviously as long as it is gluten free). I can foresee some definite sugar withdrawal moments.
- And finally alcohol, what more needs to be said, we will happily share a bottle of wine a couple of times a week to wind down.
Ready, set, go!
Come first of January we will be repairing our bodies from the inside out. This healthy eating plan is a mix of paleo and whole food that will assist with reducing inflammation in the body and help to get our bodies prepared for a massive year ahead. Regular exercise (something we are fairly good at doing anyway) will of course be a big part of this plan.
We can’t wait to give you some updates on how it is going. Feel free to come along for the ride or just stay tuned!