Thanks to my good friend Dr. Google, I came to find that I’m not the only person asking that question. In fact, the term “anti-aging” is attached to quite a lot of articles promoting a gluten-free diet. But as I read more and more of them, I felt misled.
In no general way is a gluten-free diet for those with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity or other autoimmune diseases anti-aging. And I’d like to show you why I believe that it might even be an age accelerator for some.
Gluten Free Anti Aging Diet: Here’s What You Need to Know
But first ask yourself…
How old do you feel?
And equally important — how old do you look?
If you’re wondering why I urge you to do this, it’s because the members of our gluten-free community don’t often feel as good as they believe they should. Though memories or ideas of what good health should look like help you know where you aren’t, these questions provide the basis to know where you currently are.
And before we go a step further, I want to challenge the notion that caring about “how old” you look only speaks to personal vanity. There’s so much more than can be gain from being honest about that question. Sure on some level, I am personally concerned about my outward appearance and holding on to my youthful years, but I also know from my own health ups and downs that how I look on the outside can give me some pretty darn good clues pointing to what’s going on on the inside.
Since many of my wonderful clients are in their 40s and 50s, I know how much they value feeling good, vibrant and youthful. Naturally priorities shift through the changing decades and reshape what’s most important — traveling with your spouse or girlfriends, keeping up with your kids or even young grandchildren, running a business or simply keeping up with your job — and yet your body isn’t cooperating.
But the word “youthful” doesn’t mean what you probably think it does. I’m not suggesting that we all go back in time and try to hang on to some ideal form from our early 20s. That’s just not realistic and I believe there’s much beauty found in the wisdom derived from life experience. To me, youthfulness is a state of mind and describes how you feel. I know folks many moons older than myself (in their 80s and even 90s) who have a youthful quality about how they look at and respond to life. But they also do what they can to take care of themselves (I know an 85 year old who still faithfully goes to Zumba a few times a week). There’s a glow in their skin and a liveliness still burning in their eyes.
So do we all have to have the body of a super-skinny 20-something to be youthful? Nope… not at all. And frankly, I feel better now with my health than I did when I was 20 and have no wish to go back. It’s my goal to feel the best I possibly can with spunk at any age.
Though a gluten-free diet can take many forms, the most common version built off the Standard American version is a problem. I personally know how detrimental it can be since I developed adrenal fatigue (CLICK HERE to read about my story) a year after going gluten-free and watched my life go from delightful to depressing in the blink of an eye.
Convenience is not the best thing for your health and is actually one of the main reasons why a gluten-free diet may be an aging-accelerator. I know how exciting it can seem to “feel normal” and eat treats that make you feel less deprived than you already do, but unintended consequences can leave you feeling ragged, tired and not anything like the vibrant self you want to get back to.
Bottom line? We are what we eat, but we are also aged by what we do or do not eat. A glowing complexion and energy will be found in ways beyond the coffee pot and a gluten-free muffin. I don’t say this at all to judge anyone still struggling to figure out their gluten-free diet, but more to encourage you to think about the choices you make at your daily meals (and snacks).
Everything you eat is used as building blocks for rebuilding and re-patterning your body. Processed gluten-free food loaded with sugar and rancid vegetable oils don’t provide your body with the right nutrients it needs to operate at or look it’s best. I’d rather buy the right foods that keep me optimally fueled rather than rely on what I believe is a losing race with face serums, heavy makeup and energy drinks intended to maintain the appearance of a fading youth.
And the top aging-accelerators in the gluten-free diet are…
Unbalanced Blood Sugar
This can’t be said enough, but a diet based on starches like rice, corn, potato and tapioca wreak havoc on your blood sugar. I know pasta and breads are easy, but blood sugar spikes place a burden on your thyroid (and it just so happens that the incidence of thyroid problems is alarming in the gluten-free community).
Simply because you eat gluten-free does not alleviate you from the risks of diabetes nor cardiovascular disease.
Action Step –> Focus meals more around real food. It sounds simple, but can get tricky when you don’t plan out your weekly meals or know what to do when eating out. If you’ve heard of the phrase “Eat the Rainbow”, then follow that cue. I personally try my darnedest to fill about 2/3 of my plate with vegetables and healthy lower glycemic starches like sweet potatoes.
By eating packaged gluten-free food products with a fiber count less than 3 to 5 grams per serving, your body doesn’t have the fiber necessary to keep the digested waste moving along. And if you eat fewer veggies and fruit than you are products, you could be in for trouble. Fiber is an important part of the body’s digestive system to help remove waste and helps keep certain factors in check necessary for good metabolic health.
Action Step –> Firstly, look for products that have between 3 to 5 grams of fiber per serving.
Then spend 20 minutes a week making up a cut veggie snack tray that you can easily reach for whenever you need it. If you don’t have time to make your own dips, buy pre-made gluten-free hummus or guacamole (and even nut butter can be great in some instances). So swap out those rice crackers for carrot sticks or cucumber slices dipped in hummus or guacamole or maybe an apple with some almond butter.
Ever heard of antioxidants? They combat oxidative stress in your body which contributes to inflammation and other malfunctions of your body. In essence, they help protect you from aging quickly.
This is a topic that’s been studied and we now know that a diet filled with high glycemic foods can increase your rate of oxidative stress and chronic illness as demonstrated in this 2012 study. Those high glycemic gluten-free starches mentioned above are just as bad as the non-GF versions.
Action Step –> Opt for an additional 1 or 2 servings of vegetables to crowd out gluten-free pasta. Adding steamed or sautéed veggies to your pasta is a great was to make it go further and enjoy the added antioxidants covered in pasta sauce (which is a great source of lycopene, another antioxidant).
Any type of sugar you eat is broken down into it’s smallest sugar parts (monosaccharides to be exact). If you add sugar to everything you eat, down sodas with your meals, eat those 100 calorie snack packs during the day, or indulge your sweet tooth at every meal, you’re going to have a problem. This certainly is a part of the “High Glycemic” conversation, but sugar places big demands that you might not be happy to pay like bone loss in osteoporosis.
Sugar also feeds bad bacteria (which can upset your stomach, appear as acne on your face, degrade your teeth, etc). Again, not good.
And it creates oxidative stress along with aging your brain (check out the new book “Grain Brain” by neurologist David Perlmutter, MD for more on that topic) as Alzheimer’s in now being considered Type III Diabetes.
Action Step –> Learn how to figure out the amount of sugar you eat in a day by using my simple system (CLICK HERE to check it out).
Also combine the action steps above with saying bye-bye to high-glycemic, super sweet beverages like soda and juices. Even diet sodas have their large risk of issues (as 1 diet soda per week elevates your risk of diabetes by 33%). Instead pair water with fresh fruit and herbs to replenish your thirst.