Is It Time to Give Up Gluten?

June 22, 2017

Caution tape on bread loaf In America 1.5 million people suffer from sensitivity to gluten a group of researchers out of the University of Maryland said in 2003. That is after they consume gluten they have some type of allergic reaction and another one in seven has a gluten intolerance which means they will have some type of adverse side effects from eating gluten. Those people who are unable to tolerate at all have a condition called Celiac disease.

Gluten intolerance is 30 times more prevalent than celiac disease. 1 in 7 people are sensitive to gluten but test negative for celiac disease. They suffer many of the same symptoms and are known as Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitive (NCGS). People of European or Anglo-Celtic ancestry are more likely to have gluten intolerance.

Today there’s a lot of talk about gluten. We walk down the grocery store aisles to see numerous food products labeled as ‘gluten free.’  We also see on restaurant menus foods that are also noted as gluten free. It seems that gluten free is the new rage. But just what is all this gluten free about and is it something you too should consider?

Time to Give Up Gluten

Typical Symptoms of a Gluten Allergy

While a gluten allergy can present several of these symptoms are none at all it’s important to know what you’re looking for if you suspect a problem with consuming gluten.

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Anemia
  • Stomach upset
  • Joint pain
  • Muscle cramps
  • Skin rash
  • Mouth sores
  • Tingling in legs and feet
  • Fatty or oily stools
  • Weakness and fatigue

Depending on the individual these symptoms all may be present, some may be present or none at all.

But despite the obvious reasons you may want to steer clear of gluten there are some other reasons for even those without a gluten allergy or sensitivity to eliminate gluten from their diets.

Tennis Great Novak Dokovich Ditches Gluten

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic attributes his success to going gluten free

World renowned tennis great, Novak Dokovich, and his recent claims that going gluten free has contributed to his spectacular success on the court, have added to the public interest in going gluten free.

Dokovich credits much of his tennis success to his decision to eliminate gluten from his diet. He spoke out recently about this decision to go gluten free and how he believes it enables him to be in top physical shape and possess the coveted number two spot in the world in tennis.

And Dokovich isn’t the only athlete going gluten free. A recent article in Bicycle Magazine discussed world famous bicycler Christian Vande Velde and his gluten free diet.

In the article Velde discusses his decision to go gluten free. His rationale was this: gluten

Vande Velde

Vande Velde always keeps gluten free snacks close by

produces inflammation which in turn leads to delayed recovery times and impacts stamina and performance. To Velde, a gluten free diet is the same as an inflammation free diet.

This switch to gluten free diets has been working for both of these world class athletes. Will it work for you?

If you suspect you have a problem – big or small – with gluten then you may just want to consider going gluten free. If you’re hesitant to do so then simply decide to try it for a period of time and see how you feel.

Best Gluten Free Foods

Gluten is actually a protein that is found in wheat as well as barley and rye. You can consume foods that normally contain gluten by looking for the gluten free labels. In addition you can alter your diet so that you are eating foods that are naturally gluten free.

The following is a small list of naturally gluten free alternatives:

  • Brown Rice
  • Sweet Potato
  • Quinoa
  • Almond Flour
  • Coconut Flour
  • Chick Pea Flour

Although many of these foods are not considered mainstream you can easily find them at your local health food store or at a reputable online health food store.

In addition eating a diet rich in raw, organic fruits and vegetables is a great way to give your body the nutrients it needs and avoid the detrimental effects of eating a highly refined and processed diet.

If you want to up the ante with your workout, give gluten free a try.


Josh Axe

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  1. rebekah on

    My family eats gluten free. My husband heard on the radio show that wheat allergies can cause ADD symptoms. My kids are amazing sweet kids now that we are gf. Before, I didn’t know what to do & considered calling Super Nanny or something. I make most of our own foods, but wondered about how healthy tapioca flour, potato starch, & xanthum gum are.

    • Dr. Axe on

      Tapioca flour and brown rice flour are fine. You wouldn’t want to do too much potato flour but if your just using it for a bit of
      cooking it’s OK. You just want to be careful not to eat to many high glycemic carbs. Also, xanthum gum is a natural preservative and
      is a much better option than most the other chemical preservatives out there.

  2. Judith Wine on

    I was aware of how gluten affected me about a year ago and i stay away from it! I feel 100% better!!

  3. Dale on

    Doesn’t gluten in the small intestine inhibit the absorption of most nutrients into your body? Although I don’t have celiac disease or am considered gluten-intolerant, I have largely eliminated it from my diet, and the conditions for which I could determine no cause previously have “mysteriously” disappeared. The benefits of going gluten free are amazing.

    • Jennifer on

      Your best option is to search scratch and dent stores in your town on the internet. That’s how I found mine.

  4. Jennifer on

    Another place I am finding some of the gluten free items is at scratch and dent stores. They are considerably cheaper, and it’s the same brand they carry at the health food stores.

    • Kari on

      Me, too! There’s a great one not too far from us that carries a whole section of GF products. And, our local scratch and dent takes coupons! :)

      • Tiffany on

        The other day our local Big Lots store had gf products made by “Bob Red Mill.” Not sure if they’ll continue to get them, but they were a good deal. Also gram flour is made of ground chickpeas and can be more inexpensive option. I would look for it in the ethnic foods section of the store or an ethnic grocery store.

  5. Cristy on

    It is astounding the difference in my teenager since we discovered his intolerance to gluten; attitude, skin, bone-pain, sleep, and more have been positively changed. I also have given it up and have had excellent results. These days, if I consume gluten, i can tell immediately because all my old symptoms return (bloating, fatigue, skin problems). I believe wholeheartedly that many people with chronic health problems can be transformed by giving it up–which I have seen first hand in feeding people well for a living.
    Another note: buying foods labeled “gluten free” will cost much more than simply reading labels and choosing foods that are naturally gluten free. The exception to this for our family and for my clients are bread and pasta. For these, we love Rudi’s whole grain bread and rice pasta (cannot remember brand name), both from the organic section at Kroger.
    That’s my three cents. :)

  6. Raylene on

    I have recently read that a negative reaction to wheat was early miscarriage. Due to this revelation, I am cutting wheat out entirely. Is there any information you have to add to this? Thanks-

  7. Kari on

    For several years, I was having lower abdominal and lower back pain. I thought I just kept straining my back, so always had my husband massage me. After the pain got more miserable and more frequent, I went to my obgyn, thinking I had female issues. She asked me various questions and told me that my response of only going to the bathroom maybe once a week was not normal and not healthy. That’s how I’d always been! I had no idea it wasn’t normal! However, I kept putting off going to a gastrointestinal doctor for a few more years. Finally, the pain was so severe, it was waking me up in the middle of the night in tears. The GI doctor gave me a “cleanse” and put me on daily Miralax, and told me to UP my fiber. I was already on whole wheat and flax and whole grain pastas, etc. Long story short, I switched to a holistic doctor in Kentucky, and after a few months, she suggested I go off of gluten. She said I would know after three weeks if that was the culprit. WIthin ONE week, I was going to the bathroom DAILY! I had never done that my entire life. The pain was gone! As long as I stay away from gluten, I’m fine. If I ingest some, I’m constipated for days if not a week! I was amazed that one simple thing could stop those years of pain! I’m not going back!

  8. Nadya on

    Our family went gluten free after my grown daughter had the genetic testing done through entero lab (TX) & found she, her husband & two daughters each had two genes for intolerance (he had one intolerance & one for celiac)! I wasn’t tested, but assumed since I passed one on, it was better to go GF at the same time.
    As Rebekah says, the kids are much calmer most of the time, & health problems have decreased. The younger, now 6, can now swallow digestive enzymes & probiotics, we all take a range of supplements to help repair the grain damage done over the years.
    My daughter’s anxiety (12 years standing, even with MUCH cognitive work & positive life changes) was GONE within the first week of being GF. Our family has Dyslexia, another of the ‘alphabet soup’ of learning problems, & the girls seem to be processing info more easily. Skin has cleared, ‘brain fog’ is a thing of the past, etc.
    I’d like to point out that gluten intolerance is not = to ‘gluten allergy” – tho that also exists. My daughter had blood tests done before sending for the genetic testing, & the blood work showed allergies to peanuts & egg yolks, but she was NOT ‘allergic’ to wheat/glutent!

    It is frustrating that it seems to be simpler to find OG & whole grain products with gluten than in the GF isles! I have been health conscious for 40 years, & still stick more to whole, OG & local where I can! I have a CSA share & garden – am growing amaranth & quiona, which offer great greens as well!
    We also find a good GF items at ‘Grocery Outlet’ chain – which is quite handy & less expensive. Again, naturally gluten free OG beans, olive oil & etc are less $$ there.

    Many medical professionals in the GF field feel that we WOULD all be healthier without wheat & other gluten containing grains in our diets!

  9. Nikki on

    I’d love to know which grocery stores & restaurants this article is referring to that offer “numerous gluten free products” as they are horribly difficult to find and highly expensive.

    We have one bread option in our area and it’s $6.00 for the tiniest loaf of FROZEN bread I’ve ever seen! Maybe GF is “all the rage” in some parts of the country, but not everywhere.

    Perhaps if enough celebrities & athletes jump on the band wagon, the rest of us will finally be able to buy food that doesn’t make us want to die or need to take out a 2nd mortgage!

    • Cristy on

      Nikki, it has been easier and more budget-friendly for our family to just eat natural foods that don’t attempt to substitute another grain for wheat, barley, or rye (i.e. vegetables, fruits, legumes, meats, etc.) versus buying GF-branded foods. Bread is $6 a loaf here, too, and rice pasta is $2.50 a box, so is only an occasional splurge. I really miss a lot of foods but the adjustment is well worth the benefits if gluten effects you. As for restaurants, that can be very tricky since you never really know what the ingredients are…

  10. Peggy Holloway on

    I am in favor of eliminating all grains rather than looking for gluten-free alternatives. Breads and pastas are not essential for anyone’s diet and are usually highly processed. I maktes sense to me to just stop eating them and avoid the concern that “gluten free products” are so expensive.
    Eat real, whole foods that don’t come in boxes, bags, bottles, or other packages, not “products.”

  11. [email protected] on

    I love this article. but gluten is just another buzz word marketers have picked up on. I work with many clients who are obsessed with gluten free products, yet they are are purchasing processed junk from the drug store. The gluten free obsession is similar to the fat free obsession in the 90’s. Not everyone has an intolerance. Listen to your body and eat foods from nature. Most people are more allergic to the hundreds of other additives in the products they are buying. Whole grain dense bread from the farms market, is a great source of fiber and vitamins. It does have gluten .It gets stale after a couple of days. Gluten free or not. It is about the quality of food. Check out my blog for more easy ,healthy recipes .
    PS I love this blog

  12. linda on

    I when gluten free about 6 months ago, 100% better in the way I feel after a long hx. of stomach problems.

  13. joshoc on

    Why does God make things that are bad for us like sugar and gluten? These are naturally-occurring things. Oh well, he’s trying to tempt us I guess. BTW, Happy Birthday Dr. Axe!! Working hard on your birthday I see.

    • Dale on

      Josh, not meant to be a rebuke here, but James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.”

      I think the point you might be making is that, yes, God created everything, then he gave us the capacity to manage it how we see fit. He gave the Israelites certain regulations for food consumption and none of it involved genetically modified or processed foods. That was man’s doing. It’s o.k. to have sugar, as long as it’s REAL sugar from REAL food. The gluten is naturally occurring in the growth process, but that doesn’t mean we should consume the grains in that form. It seems that sprouted grains or fine and actually healthy, with little or no gluten content. So yes, sugar and grains are fine, just not processed sugar or gluten. Even with sprouted grains, it’s best not to consume too many of those.

  14. Debbie on

    My testimony: My test for gluten intolerance came back borderline. I had been having hip bursitis that was getting worse for about six months. My dr. suggested I give up gluten for one month. On the fourth day the bursitis was gone and has not returned. I was naturally skeptical, but that was two years ago and I am still pain free. I eat gluten occasionally, maybe once every two weeks, but before the month long fast I ate it everyday sometimes three times a day. I’m a believer!!! Over the two years I have lost 20 lbs, not really trying and have kept it off. In my area gf foods are expensive so I just eat more whole foods.

  15. Sherill on

    I have celiac disease and have eaten gluten-free for more than 30 years. I am also dairy intolerant. I eat mostly vegetables, fruits, meats and nuts. Except for special occasions I don’t eat much in the way of grains or baked goods. We humans evolved long before the agricultural revolution, and our bodies are not adapted for eating large amounts of grains of any kind. We are the healthiest when we feed our bodies the foods we were developed to eat.

  16. Htin on

    I’m an Asian kid (guy or whatever), so true to the stereotype, my family’s diet consists 60-75% of rice – white rice to be exact. And the most striking thing you said is that white rice here is practically brown rice with the nutrients taken out. Sounds sinister they way you put it – and I agree with you! I don’t know what else to do but pray that my parents and family would open to these kinds of health tips things would be easier. Plus a lot of the foods mention here sound expensive.
    I don’t have too much authority in the house (considering I’m the youngest, too).
    What do I do?! 15 years and plus of white rice is too much.

  17. Kristi Piccone on

    I decided to go gluten, dairy and sugar free during my last pregnancy. I was miserable the first trimester naturally from fatigue but by the second, my skin cleared up and I felt so much energy! I never looked better in my life and even lost about ten lbs before packing on only 17lbs during the latter part of my pregnancy. You could barely tell that I was pregnant except my small belly. I ate a very healthy diet of raw veggies and good protein, 1 ingredient foods. I believe that my battle with fatigue the 1st trimester and really all my life, was attributed to a gluten sensitivity. I have back tracked a bit this past year and I feel myself drained again and the skin flareups have resurfaced slightly. I’m getting back on track slowly and my husband, children and I eat a primarily gluten free diet and low dairy. I highly recommend going GF! It’s so worth it having glowing skin and energy like a champ!!

    • Carol ,a sensible nurse on

      It is normal to be tired, especially in the first trimester of pregnancy. Due to increased blood flow and demands your body is going through to nourish a developing baby. It is not,however, normal to put yourself on a gluten free diet during this time and during nursing. (only with Dr’s advise if you have problems)I always follow sensable dietary rules. Eat well and healthy. Limit or eliminate sweets, eat good sources of protein,veggies and fruits,nuts. Your baby needs the calories as does your body. The time to diet is not during pregnancy!

      • Dale on

        Carol, it doesn’t sound as though Kristi was “dieting” in the traditional sense, just that she was dropping gluten. That’s actually addition by subtraction, in my opinion. Eliminating gluten doesn’t equal dropping nutrients, just eating good REAL foods.

    • Heather S on

      Kristi- I also went gluten free during one of my pregnancies because I was suspected to have celiac disease, but tested negative and started eating it again not knowing better. Even though it was hard to adapt to the diet during the morning sickness phase, I felt a lot better during that time than when I ate gluten foods, so there has to be a connection. I am just now starting back on removing gluten from my diet again because I think I definitely have a gluten sensitivity and it’s getting worse as I get older.

  18. jb on

    hey dr. axe,

    i have a problem with my tongue that flares up from time to time. it seems to develop a white film and leaves a funny taste in my mouth but then goes away after a few days. coffee seems to make it worse. do you think this may have something to do with a ph imbalance. it’s been flaring up at periodically for about a year now and my doctor says its nothing???

  19. Beth on

    Does anyone have a healthy gluten free sandwich bread recipe? I don’t want it to have ingredients that aren’t healthy — those ingredients that you can’t pronounce. I would like my daughter to be able to take sandwiches to school but I need a good recipe. Help! Thanks!

    • Dale on

      Check out the Ezekiel bread products in the frozen food case at Kroger and Whole Foods. Not sure which of the other chains handle them. They are excellent. Made from sprouted grains.

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