Popular Gluten & Dairy-Free Myths Busted

This week, I was lucky enough to collaborate with someone very experienced with the gluten & dairy-free lifestyle.

On the surface, Erica is a 20-year old rising senior at the University of Michigan. She's a health & fitness enthusiast, loves to cook and bake, and is studying to become a nurse practitioner post-grad. Aside from her passion for health, she is actively pursuing a career in the field, dedicating a great deal of her time to internships at some of the most highly-regarded health centers. She is currently spending her summer in NYC interning at the world-renowned Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Although she sounds like a normal college student, Erica suffers from a chronic disease known as Crohn's [learn more]. She manages her symptoms with medication, but owes most of her success to her diet. In order to feel her best, she limits caffeine and alcohol, and lives a gluten and dairy free lifestyle.

If you're reading this, you've likely heard the words gluten and dairy-free, as the concept blew up in the diet world not long ago. The media was quick to hop on the bandwagon, labeling the two as evil, and claiming that GF & DF diets would result in rapid weight loss and overall better health.

So what's the real deal with gluten & dairy? With the help of Erica's medical background and experience with nutrition, let's set the records straight.


myth:a gf/df diet will help you lose weight

Reality: Many GF foods contain added calories, sugar, and fat to make up for flavor. Just compare any regular product to its GF version. [example shown here]

Similarly, DF foods often use nuts as fat substitutes. Although they are healthy fats, they contain the same nutritional value as low-fat milks or cheeses, merely swapping one healthy fat with another.


Myth:Gluten & dairy are unhealthy

Reality: There is no evidence of gluten or dairy being harmful to the average human. In fact, many gluten & dairy products contain essential vitamins that support your body & immune system. Whole grains, for example, contain high amounts of fiber, aiding in healthy digestion.

This does not apply to those with celiac, dairy allergies, or chronic diseases.


Myth:gluten and dairy make you feel sluggish

Reality: There are tons of factors that can cause fatigue such as alcohol, lack of sleep, stress, or work. Before suspecting a food reaction, make sure you have spoken to your doctor about what else the cause could be.

Additionally, keep in mind that adverse reactions are commonly associated with the elimination of food groups. Because your body is eliminating nutrients you have been living with for years, it can cause reactions just like tiredness.


myth:gluten = carbs

Reality: Some carbs contain gluten, but not all gluten is high carb. Frankly, if you think by cutting out gluten you are cutting carbs too, you're completely wrong. Plus, fruits, veggies, and grains like quinoa are carbs.


myth:gluten & dairy intolerances are common

Reality: The majority of people are tolerant to both gluten & dairy. Current statistics show that only 1% of Americans must eliminate gluten, while only 6% are sensitive and should avoid it. In order to help analyze, people are split into 3 categories.

1. Normal- able to comfortably eat and digest X food/group.
2. Intolerant/Sensitive- experiences symptoms after eating X. Might have been diagnosed with sensitivity or intolerance. May choose to limit intake of X, but not required to. Not harmful.
3. Allergic- This group includes those with celiac disease, allergies, or inflammatory diseases like Crohn's. Consuming X may cause flair-ups, worsened symptoms, and can be life-threatening. Eliminating X is required.

Final Takeaway: There is no hidden secret to weight-loss. From a science-perspective, weight-loss is simply having a larger energy output than input. In other words, weight loss occurs when the number of calories burned are greater than the number of calories consumed. At the end of the day, healthy eating is good for your body, but eliminating gluten & dairy products does NOT qualify as "healthy."