GF diet vs Paleo

Hi.

Every so often someone here will say it's unhealthy to be gf unless you're coeliac, while simultaneously I see people (gf and not) following the paleo diet. Paleo excludes grains altogether so if you're following it strictly should be gf (I think, unless I'm missing something).

I know when you cut all fibrous grains out of your diet you need to compensate if you want to keep your gut healthy, it isn't good to live on processed foods gf or not gf, etc, but I can't get my head around how, unless you are forced to be gf by coeliac, gf is terrible for you but paleo is great for you if you see what I mean. But perhaps I'm not seeing the whole picture here - ?

(For the purposes of full disclosure, I have Hashimoto's and other autoimmune issues and I've been gf for a year on the advice of a doctor despite neg blood test for coeliac.)

Anyone have any thoughts about this? Is it just a simple difference of opinion?

15 Replies

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  • I have cut out gluten from my diet, though I haven't been diagnosed as cealiac. I had a test some years ago which was negative, but my symptoms have increased since becoming hypothyroid. I tried an exclusion diet, then reintroduced wheat to see what i was like. All I can say is I felt great on the gluten free diet, then rubbish when I had wheat. So I am carrying on with it. No more running to toilet and being in pain.

  • I suspect that some would say you should get a diagnosis first. And of course sometimes that's hard to do (either for lack of interest from docs or the fact that outside of a biopsy the tests may not be accurate, or at least that's what I heard about the blood test) so you have to do what you feel is best for you.

    Sadly I haven't seen much improvement myself, but some of my new blood tests show that my vitamin levels are much better than they used to be and I would say I was taking far more supplements far more reliably before I was gf, so perhaps my absorption has improved.

    I find it hard to reconcile the two points of view about paleo and gf though.

  • Hi puncturedbicycle, I too am puzzled by the frequently stated opinion that 'unless you're diagnosed coeliac you shouldn't be on the gf diet' as, like you, I can't see why it would be 'harmful'? By gf diet I mean eating healthy, fresh non-processed foods, and avoiding gf-processed foods (so no ready-made processed gf cakes, biscuits, crackers, sausage rolls, yorkshire puddings etc etc etc and only home-made baking including breads, cakes etc). Personally I also suppliment my diet with vitamins and minerals. I eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables, use olive oil and butter/olive oil spreads (ie trying to keep what goes into my body as simple and healthy as possible). I don't have a choice about not following a gf diet: I have dermatitis herpetiformis but the consultant would only say it was 99% certain that I had it, so officially it's "inconclusive". How can 99% be "inconclusive"?? The minute I ingest gluten in any form I get instant itching, usually followed by hive-like eruptions which last for weeks, I get bloating, I get sore stomach, I get windy, I get difficulties going to the loo, I get mood swing, anxiety etc etc etc. This does NOT happen to me when I follow a gf diet.

    It would be interesting to hear from people why they believe that following a gf diet is unhealthy if you are not diagnosed coeliac.

  • Views on what a healthy diet is vary enormously. I see no reason that a GF diet should be unhealthy. Wheat isn't particularly rich in nutrients from what I can see. When you cut out wheat, it's what you replace it with that determines whether the diet is healthy or not.

    And what about freedom to choose? I think a vegetarian diet is far more likely to be missing out certain nutrients and therefore is more likely to be unhealthy, but nobody goes around saying people should not be vegetarian.

  • Totally wheat and cereals do not have anything we need that can not be obtained elsewhere, I personally believe vegetairian IS unhealthy it is just not PC to say so! Humans have evolved as omnivores not herbivore, but we can survive all sorts of adversity.

  • Perhaps those who say that a gf diet is unhealthy are talking about those people who choose to substitute normal gluten containing prepared foods such as pizza, ready meals, cakes, biscuits and breads with gluten free options. In that case, gram for gram, gluten free options are invariably higher in calories and saturated fats than their wheat-containing counterparts.

    However, if by choosing a gluten free diet you are creating meals from scratch, eating a wide range of gluten-free grains along with lots of fresh vegetables, fruits and a variety of proteins then it is difficult to understand the declaration that gluten free is less healthy.

    Paleo is a diet based on the principles of a hunter-gatherer diet before farming was developed. It has some parallels to the various blood-type diets that have floated around for years. Logically your paleo diet should also reflect your individual genetic background as this is basically what you are trying to emulate.

    On the whole though, paleo is gluten-free and nightshade free (no potatoes, tomatoes, vegetable peppers, aubergine, chilli, paprika, tobacco). I have no idea whether a central / south American paleo diet would also exclude nightshades though.

    Paleo doesn't have a substantial amount of peer-reviewed published research to back it up so reaction from dietitians will be neutral at best. However, lots of people with inflammatory diseases do report benefits from removing nightshades from their diet.

    You have the right to choose what works for you. As long as you are enjoying eating a nutritionally balanced diet which allows you to feel fit and healthy, the format of that diet is up to you.

  • I just want to emphasise that I'm not calling anyone out on the carpet about their diet, I just was wondering if in the first instance we're talking about 1) an unhealthy gf diet being unhealthy or 2) a gf diet being unhealthy even with adequate fibre and nutrition (green veg, pulses, soluble fibre from lentils and possibly gf oats). And if that's the case, is this just an opposing view to the paleo point of view which is that grain-free (in addition to the other paleo tenets) is good for you.

    I fully support everyone's entitlement to their choices obvs. It's the opinions above that I'm specifically wondering if I have an adequate grip on - apologies for grammar! :-)

  • I see what you're saying. Standard medical advice is to have plenty of whole grains in your diet, is it about 30% or something on that horrible eat well plate? So in that case avoiding grains is unhealthy unless you have gf bread, pasta or non gluten grains etc. The paleo view would be that grains are not needed anyway so there's no need to replace them and that the healthiest diet excludes grains. I think it just depends on who you want to believe. In my case I am on the side of paleo unless anyone can show me evidence that bread or pasta are essential to health considering we didn't eat grains for thousand of years.

  • I don't know what the advice is but I would have thought that green and brightly coloured veg would be much better for you than a pile of grains (I was once advised that my diet should be 70% green veg, which is a great idea but quite hard to do).

    I don't generally hear anyone saying that lots of gf grain products make for a healthy diet, I guess because they're heavily processed and generally fatty.

    But I do sometimes come across someone saying that unless you are coeliac, a gf diet is not a healthy diet, and at the same time I hear that in the paleo context grains are bad and I don't know if there is any evidence to suggest that either is true. But there's a lot I don't know! So I'm just asking for feedback. :-)

  • Are you in the uk? Here's a link to the eatwell plate which is what the nhs advise we should base out diet on.

    nhs.uk/Livewell/Goodfood/Pa...

    And this is what the nhs say about starchy carbohydrates

    Why do you need starchy foods?

    Starchy foods are a good source of energy and the main source of a range of nutrients in our diet.

    As well as starch, they contain fibre, calcium, iron and B vitamins.

    Some people think starchy foods are fattening, but gram for gram they contain fewer than half the calories of fat. Just watch out for the added fats used when you cook and serve them: this is what increases the calorie content.

    But there are other people who believe that replacing natural fats with carbohydrate is what has caused the obesity epidemic. Mainly because carbohydrates cause you to release more insulin which stores energy as fat. I have been reading the blogs of dr John Briffa and malcolm kendrick, both of them are really interesting and controversial but they make a lot of sense to me. There's a lot of evidence on those two blogs that would support the paleo view, not so much regarding grains but about why replacing our traditional higher fat diet with low fat high carb alternatives has led to obesity.

    I hope this helps to answer your question.

  • There have been some scientific trials of the paleo diet, which show several health benefits - improves BP and lipid levels, lower insulin production. They obviously excluded grains.

    ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/192...

    All food provides you with energy, you can get all the nutrients you need without eating much (or any) starch. If you eat the processed gf food then going gf is not going to be the most healthy option.

    I found that going gf was the most wonderful relief from pain etc, but going more towards paleo seems to have given me more energy and general well being. Also going back to a full fat diet seems to have been a good idea - my nails and hair are much improved, and my cholesterol remains at a healthy level.

  • I have autoimmune hypothyroidism and Hughes syndrome and am gluten intolerant. Before having to become GF I still had many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism despite medication. They've all eased considerably.

    I've also made a conscious decision to cut down on carbs to see if it helps, and I've continued to lose weight at a slow steady pace, despite eating more saturated fats. I haven't yet been retested to see how this has affected my cholesterol levels lately, but they were med-high when I was eating very little sat fats, mostly I believe, because of my thyroid meds not working correctly. I read some articles online by Chris Kresser and Dr Kharrazian who both believe there is a strong link between auto-immune disease and gluten grains and it appears to make good sense. You might want to look them up.

    As I understand it, to properly follow a paleo diet it would be prohibitively expensive and complicated with sourcing and buying purely grass fed meats etc., but cutting carbs down, rather than out, definitely seems to have benefitted my health so far.

  • Pure grass fed meat, is easy it is called game! Rabbit or squirrel anyone?

  • Rabbit is fine, but apparently squirrel is a bit stringy! We can sometimes get venison ... It's really worth looking out for.

  • Glad to hear that cutting the carbs has helped, I' ve found the same. Grass fed meat is usually out of the question, but I do buy butter from grass fed cows.

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