The Gluten-free farce

by Dr. Daamini Shrivastav

October 4, 2015


  • Going Gluten-free will better my digestion and bowel health. I’ll have less ‘upset tummy’
  • Gluten-free food aids weight loss
  • Gluten-free diet means a low carb diet
  • Gluten-free food has zero Gluten
  • Only grains contain Gluten
  • Those who don’t have Celiac disease or Gluten sensitivity but still follow gGuten-free diets feel better and therefore this is THE diet to be on


  • Gluten only affects you adversely IF you’re sensitive or intolerant to it. Otherwise it’s presence or absence makes no difference to your digestive tract.
  • Gluten-free does NOT mean “low calorie”. On the contrary most of the Gluten-free produce you find in the markets are grotesquely calorie-dense and choc-full of sugars and saturated fats to compensate for the lack of texture and taste which comes about due to Gluten
  • Only if you follow a strict and traditional Gluten-free diet but with carb-filled substitutes popping up everywhere chances are you’re eating the same amount if not more of carbs and loading up on empty calories through refined grains. A Gluten-free diet can range from being high carb to being almost Ketogenic in nature.
  • In reality this is an impossible feat and even with current technology the lowest we have been able to achieve is 3 ppm (parts per million). Studies however show that people with Celiac disease and sensitivities can tolerate up to 20 ppm of Gluten in their food
  • Not even close! While most grains do contain Gluten, many like Amaranth, Millet and Quinoa do not. Further, items like malt flavoring, salad dressings, soups, soy sauce and some cosmetics comprise of Gluten
  • Myth! Myth! Chances are that because they’ve stuck to natural whole foods like meats, fruits, nuts, veggies and cut out the processed and sugary foods they feel better but this can be the result even whilst consuming foods with Gluten like oats. More often than not, this is a placebo effect that people narrate


  • The Gluten-free diet is nearly miraculous for those with Celiac disease or true Gluten sensitivity, freeing them of their debilitating symptoms and allowing them to lead normal, stress-free lives
  • A true, physician and dietician prescribed Gluten-free diet of wholesome and natural foods would achieve what pop-culture calls “clean eating” and almost rid you completely of nasty sugars, refined carbs, saturated fats preservatives and additives. Such an intelligently designed diet would then greatly aid weight loss if teemed with the right kind of physical exercise regime


  • Because of the widespread ‘Gluten-free’ label on nearly every food item out there, obesity has gone from being common to a full-blown epidemic with Type 2 Diabetes and Heart Disease cases skyrocketing
  • Without proper nutritional guidance, jumping onto the Gluten-free bandwagon and cutting out large food groups can result in nutrient deficiencies of B vitamins, Calcium, Iron, Zinc, Magnesium and of fiber
  • The Gluten-free drive is almost completely commercially driven and more people are paying exorbitant prices for food that is nutritionally poor
  • The Gluten-free diet is just another kind of deprivation which unless absolutely required will only increase one’s likelihood of developing cravings and binge-eating

My Take

In a previous issue I had penned my intense disdain for marketing food buzzwords. And believe you me, “Gluten-free” is a buzzy-word with BIG bucks behind it. An estimate shows that in 2016, the industry will rake in $16billion from this phrase and the products it’s slapped on in the USA.


Folks, let me introduce you to this decade’s “bad guy” – Gluten! Don’t believe me? Take a look at the last 40 years ; it’s like every decade we decide we’re going to demonize a new food group or nutrient. In the 80s it was fats, the 90s saw the anti-carb mania, from 2000 to 2010 we shunned lactose and dairy and here we are today … Gluten crucifiers. I can’t help but ask, “seriously, does anyone eat anything anymore?”


Before you’re swept away by the tide, few facts about Gluten. It’s a protein that is found in wheat, barley, rye, bulgur, farro, kamut, spelt and oats. Gluten on its own doesn’t offer magical nutrition but the foods it’s present in are rich and dense in vitamins, minerals, iron and fiber. Infinite studies evidence that including wholegrain foods in your diet lower the risk of Diabetes, Heart disease and some forms of cancer.


Who needs to stay clear of Gluten? Those with Celiac disease or Gluten sensitivities!

Celiac disease is autoimmune in nature and is one where Gluten aggravates the small intestine’s lining cause massive inflammation, irritation and ‘wear-tear’ destruction. The small intestine’s walls are where nutrients from food are absorbed for the body’s needs and so Gluten for these people can result severe nutritional deficiencies. Symptoms of Celiac disease range from diarrhea, anaemia, bone pain, skin rashes, nausea, vomiting, bloating, flatulence, headaches, irritability and lethargy. But mostly, symptoms don’t present and this makes Celiac disease especially hard to diagnose. Correct and accurate diagnosis is done by a blood test looking for presence of antibodies to Gluten and then confirmed by endoscopy (camera viewing) of the intestinal wall.


Gluten sensitivity on the other hand is the presence of the symptoms above without there being any antibodies or intestinal inflammation and aggravation. This is even harder to diagnose and is done so by a process of elimination. Gluten sensitivity MAY predispose one to developing full-blown Celiac disease but this is not always the case. True Celiac disease prevails at only 1% of the global population.

So why the hype and readiness to give up grains and go Gluten-free? Personally I find it extremely foolish for one who doesn’t need to avoid Gluten to do so. It almost makes you a sitting duck for cancers; wholegrains are nature’s anti-cancer soldiers. Still want to be on trend?

As for losing weight, one does not need to go Gluten-free for that. Cut out all your packaged processed meals, exercise and you’ll notice the pounds dropping like nobody’s business. And guess what? Not only is it healthier but it works out cheaper than paying for the price-tag of “Gluten-free”. 

Dr. Daamini Shrivastav


Dr. Daamini Shrivastav

Juggling many roles from physician to writer to pilates instructor to Marketing-PR executive, Dr. Daamini is constantly pushed and inspired to get creative on how to encompass a Retreat into her daily life.
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