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Q: I’ve been on a gluten-free diet due to G.I. issues and to try to drop a few pounds. I don’t feel any better, and I’ve only lost 2 pounds in two months—maybe gluten isn’t the culprit?
A: I have been seeing a great deal of this in my private practice, so I know many triathletes are in the same boat. A gluten-free diet can be very beneficial (and is imperative) for those with celiac disease, a disease in which any ingested gluten causes inflammation and long-term complications (see a G.I. doctor for a diagnosis). Going gluten-free is trendy now, even for those who aren’t intolerant, but as you noticed, following a gluten-free diet will neither magically help you shed pounds nor ease G.I. woes. If you simply substitute gluten-free versions of your regular foods, your weight will not go down. Or if, like many, you switch to gluten-free and end up eating more high-calorie, high-carb snack foods just because they don’t have gluten, you can gain weight. Also, your G.I. issues may have nothing to do with gluten. I see a much higher percentage of people with irritable bowel syndrome in my practice. Once I help them identify the real source of their problems and teach them how to adjust their diets, their symptoms can decrease drastically. My recommendation is to make an appointment with a board-certified sports dietitian in your area (find one at Scandpg.org) to receive a proper diagnosis. In my experience, even two or three visits with a sports R.D. can make a world of difference in how you feel.
Lauren Antonucci, R.D., is a board-certified specialist in sports dietetics, three-time Ironman and the founding director of Nutrition Energy in New York City.