Gluten Free, Lactose Free, Colon Cleanses-THINK TWICE
Submitted by: Tenley Burlingame
Edited by: Marcia Bristow MS RDN CD
It’s about time we clear up confusion about the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Many of us have heard and read about various ways to keep our gut happy and healthy. The most commonly seen trends associated with gut health include: a gluten-free diet, colon cleansing, and a lactose-free diet. The food we ingest is directly related to how our GI tract functions. Therefore, in order to feel our best, we need to eat our best!
Within the past few years, gluten-free diets have become more popular and gluten-free alternatives are commonly offered at restaurants and supermarkets. To date, there have been no proven benefits to a gluten-free diet for those who do not have celiac disease.1 Celiac disease is a condition that requires an avoidance of gluten in foods in order to maintain intestinal health and avoid symptoms. Those who maintaining gluten free diet without celiac disease should be weary, as many gluten-free alternatives utilize excess sugar to make up for taste. Unless prescribed by your health care provider, gluten-free diets will not improve gut health.
Colon cleansing is another trendy approach to improve GI health. There is no evidence that cleansing is helpful in any way, and it may even be dangerous.2 Our bodies are designed to naturally cleanse themselves through the function of the liver and kidneys. Unnecessary colon cleansing can put you at risk for GI damage and for infections.2 Furthermore, it can lead to dehydration. It is advised to stay away from colon cleansing and let your kidneys and liver do their thing!
Lactose intolerance is a common diagnosis. Lactose is the naturally occurring sugar in milk and is found in numerous dairy products. As we age, our bodies adapt to our diet, establishing bacteria in the colon to digest lactose.1 If lactose is already a part of your diet, there is no reason to eliminate it. Unless you show symptoms and are diagnosed by a MD, continue to eat lactose-containing foods without worry!
Our society is bombarded by diet trends and fads, many of which are unsubstantiated. Gluten-free diets, colon cleansing, and lactose-free diets are among them. Make sure to consult an MD or RD before considering a new diet. Drastic changes to a diet for no reason can be dangerous if too restrictive. Our bodies work best when we include a well-balanced diet. Healthy habits can be formed to promote health such as trying new foods you are unfamiliar with. Focus on variety rather than limitation!
- Gut Myths? Tufts Nutr Action Health Lett. 2013;(January/February):3-7.
- Horne S. Colon Cleansing.J Herb Pharmacother. 2006;6(2):93-100. doi:10.1080/J157v06n02_08.