Gluten-free eating. Food fad or health benefit?
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Gluten-free eating.  Food fad or health benefit?

Listen to my QR77 Radio Program here:

Every monday at 4:15pm on QR77 Radio join me and Angela Kokott host of Calgary Today with our segment “You are what you eat” to get the goods on healthy eating. If you missed my segments I will be archiving these audio discussions on my blog here.

Episode 18 – Gluten-free eating. Food fad or health benefit?

Listen to Episode 18 here: Gluten-free eating. Food fad or health benefit?

What is gluten?

Gluten is one of the proteins found naturally in wheat, rye, barley and cross contaminated oats. Gluten in flour helps to provide baked goods such as bread with structure, strength and texture. Gluten can also be found in smaller amounts in foods such as commercial soups, salad dressings, sauces and other foods made with hydrolyzed wheat protein or other gluten-containing ingredients. Contrary to popular belief spelt bread also contains gluten.

The difference betwen celiac disease & gluten intolerance

Celiac disease is a medical concern where even small amounts of gluten cause the small intestine to become damaged and lose the ability to absorb essential nutrients such as carbohydrates, protein, fat, vitamins and minerals causing serious health concerns. The treatment for celiac disease is adherence to a strict gluten-free diet. For more information, visit the Canadian Celiac Association at celiac.ca.

Gluten intolerant would be an appropriate term to describe those who have tested negative for celiac disease but find that limiting large quantities of gluten-rich foods improves how they feel. Someone with a gluten intolerance would likely experience digestive issues such as gas or bloating with a big pasta meal or heaping bowl of wheat containing breakfast cereal. They may, however, be able to handle small amounts of gluten found in foods such as soy sauce or be able to consume small portions of wheat cereal or bread.

The importance of proper testing

According to international celiac expert and author Shelly Case (glutenfreediet.ca), the prevalence of celiac disease is approximately one in every hundred people. Given that celiac disease is relatively common and living with this condition untreated can cause serious health effects, book an appointment with your doctor for initial screening (a blood test).

If your blood test comes back positive for celiac disease your doctor will refer you to a gastrointestinal specialist for a biopsy to confirm your diagnosis. It is important to have proper testing before starting a gluten-free diet, so that you don’t have a false negative reading.

Can going gluten-free help me lose weight? 

New diet books claiming wheat is to blame for belly fat might sound convincing but are not endorsed by leading health authorities such as Health Canada. Long-term research is clear that it is a deficit of calories that causes weight loss. What this means is that if you are overweight, reducing calories from foods containing carbohydrates, protein or fat will create the same level of weight loss over the long run.

Don’t be fooled by the extra initial weight loss of a low-carbohydrate diet; this indicates you have essentially dehydrated yourself, since carbohydrates store fluid on the body.

Nutrition benefits of wheat, rye, barley and oats

Removing wheat and other gluten-containing foods from your diet unnecessarily could do more harm than good. Wheat, rye, barley and oats supply key nutrients that are good for your health.

One of the big challenges for people with celiac disease is achieving enough fibre and B-vitamins for health. Many also struggle with eating out, a higher grocery bill for specialty foods and reduced variety. For children, it can also be difficult to achieve the level of energy needed for growth and development.

As an advocate for finding pleasure and joy in eating, I would also argue that removing foods you love, such as bread, for no clear medical reason just adds hardship to the already big challenge of healthy eating.

Have you ever noticed that if you tell yourself you can’t eat something, you crave it even more?



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"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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