Healthy Living

Is There Such a Thing as a Gluten "Cheat Day"?

Is There Such a Thing as a Gluten "Cheat Day"?

In a recent article published in Health Central, the author tells her story about intentionally eating gluten. She was diagnosed with celiac disease over 20 years ago and began a gluten-free diet as an eighth-grader. She accidentally ate gluten a few times and the symptoms were overwhelming. Bloated stomach, intense pain, and diarrhea were the results of eating just a little bit of food containing gluten.

Once she ate a large bowl of farro grain, which she believed was gluten-free. In the middle of the night, she woke with intense pains in her abdomen. She was unaware that farro grain does contain gluten. Farro is a whole grain food that has a similar taste and texture to barley. Farro is a type of wheat and the dictionary says that “farro is never totally gluten-free.”

Because of her unknown indulgence, she spent the night in the emergency room thinking her appendix was bursting. It took another week to realize that the pain was from the farro. The lesson learned, never to take any foods for granted.

Several years after that experience her father passed away. He died while sitting in the bicycle lane at a red-light and guiding a cycling group from another state. A driver who was driving under the influence of drugs drove right into the group of cyclists. Most of the group was unharmed, but her father and the life of another cyclist were taken.

During the week of her father’s funeral, she walked by the bakery section in Whole Foods and saw incredible cinnamon buns. Intense sadness, anger, and a longing for something comfortable drove her to purchase two of the cinnamon buns and eat them. She waited for the shooting pains. Nothing. The next day she ate two more lovely buns (she took her insulin and some psyllium husk capsules) and the only symptoms were a slight feeling of bloat and a minor headache.

Does this mean that she could now eat gluten on a regular basis? Of course not, she would still be damaging the lining of her small intestines and increasing inflammation throughout her body. The risk of stomach cancer would be higher, and she would make herself sick in many ways.

Cheat day is not something recommended by medical professionals or others with celiac disease, but sometimes an occasional gluten-cheat day might be therapeutic. You just need to tell yourself that your cheat was worth the pain and symptoms.

Wheat Intolerances vs. Celiac Disease

Those who suffer from celiac disease or who have an intolerance to gluten-laden foods need to strictly adhere to a gluten-free diet. Approximately 3 million Americans have celiac disease. This is an autoimmune disorder that’s triggered when eating food products containing certain grains like wheat, rye, and barley. It is the protein in these grains that gives the dough its chewy texture and makes it elastic.

If you choose to eat gluten, your immune system will respond by releasing antibodies that will damage or destroy your intestinal villi. Villi are part of the make-up of your small intestine. Finger-like villi absorb crucial nutrients from food. With celiac disease, villi flatten out and turn your intestine into a hard surface. You can no longer absorb nutrients, vitamins, and sugars property. This leads to malnutrition, weakened bones, and stunted growth. Without the proper absorption of vitamins and minerals, your body is subject to anemia or osteoporosis.

You may suffer no symptoms after eating foods with gluten, however, if you have celiac disease damage to the small intestine is on-going.  Gluten intolerance does not usually cause intestinal damage but leads to uncomfortable abdominal symptoms. Wheat allergies will give you itchy or watery eyes and difficulty breathing. So, if you like discomfort, then go ahead and eat gluten-laden products.

Symptom of celiac disease include:

If you have an intolerance to wheat, you are part of the 10% of all people who may suffer from a gluten sensitivity. Symptoms of gluten intolerance include:

Gluten-Free Diets

Taking gluten out of your diet may seem like it is the end of the world. Fortunately, there are healthy and wonderful foods that are naturally gluten-free. The best way to follow a gluten-free diet is to eat naturally gluten-free foods. These include:

  • Fruits
  • Meat and poultry
  • Vegetables
  • Fish and seafood
  • Beans, legumes, nuts
  • Dairy

Always read the label to make sure they don’t contain malt flavoring, which is not gluten-free.

Oats are gluten-free but might be contaminated with wheat since the same harvesting equipment and processing methods are used.

Make your own soups and sauces since they often contain hidden gluten. Many companies will use wheat flour as a thickener.

Fresh produce is best. Read labels on any canned or frozen fruits and veggies as well as dried fruit and pre-made smoothies. Packaged frozen potatoes are often full of gluten.

Beverages are usually gluten-free and wines and hard liquor or distilled liquors are typically gluten-free. Beers, ales, malt beverages, lagers are all made from gluten-containing grains and are not distilled.  If you research and shop around, you can find beers labeled “gluten-free.”

There are some medications both over the counter and by prescription that could contain gluten. Pharmaceutical companies are careful not to use any types of gluten-bearing grains in their processes, but something might slip through, and wheat may be an ingredient in your medications. Ask your pharmacist about the ingredients in your medications. Again, most are gluten-free and contain the active ingredient, protectants, coloring ingredients, bulking agents and lubricators.

Fun fact: Eating healthy enthusiasts suggest that barley and wheat grasses do not contain the protein that causes gluten intolerance and celiac disease, but there is still a risk of the protein contamination. You decide if this these wildly green beverages are worth it.

  • Contain all minerals known to man plus vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, I, and K.
  • Rich in protein.
  • Contains 17 amino acids
  • 70% chlorophyll which builds up blood cells.