You and Me. Going BEYOND Gluten-Free.

In my last post, I expressed how down I was about this new gluten-free labeling law passed by FDA, and how confused I was as to why there was so much celebration. To tell you the truth, I thought I would get a lot of backlash from the community due to my opinions. Which is why I backed up my emotions with some fact-based science. No matter what, I still needed to air my discomfort with this ruling, because my ultimate goal as a gluten-free advocate is to help people. Not to build a million-dollar business off of suffering souls. I want to free us (you and me) from the tolls that gluten has taken on our bodies. And as I already expressed, I don’t think the <20ppm ruling is helping anyone except for food manufacturers.

But instead of making enemies (or if I did, no one has spoken their mind to me), I actually ended up making quite a few new friends!  I found out that I’m not alone anymore in my position on this.  And it feels good. Well, pretty good. But I’m still upset and I still have a lot more to say.

See, I am no longer comfortable with the term “gluten-free.”

Go to any gluten-free expo, or walk down the gluten-free aisle of many grocery stores these days, and you’ll be bombarded with all kinds of processed foods that are no better than their gluten containing counterparts. Yes, I’m sure there are some exceptions, and being a harried mom, I do appreciate some convenient foods from time to time. But they have to be convenient AND nourishing. Minimally processed. Low in sugar. Nutrient-dense. Ingredients that I recognize.

The majority of “gluten-free” food products do not fit this profile.

I am worried that most people who have recently been diagnosed with celiac disease, or gluten sensitivity, or an autoimmune disorder that prescribes a gluten free diet, or any of the other approximately 200 disorders associated with gluten, will stock up on these “gluten-free” (er, low-gluten… lets call it what it is) substitutes thinking that they are now going to get healthy. But in reality, they are likely prolonging the agony.

There must be some reason why 74 – 92% of people on the standard gluten-free diet don’t heal! We already talked about the fact that foods labeled gluten-free are not truly gluten-free. But what about all that other crap you find in gluten-free foods? Soy flour and/or protein, (yes, soy is crap: see here); xanthum gum (crap, too: see here); fructose (you guessed it: crap); not to mention all the ingredients whose names are not immediately recognizable. How are any of these ingredients supposed to help with the healing process, especially after gluten hasmade us really sick?

Because that is what we need to do, after we’ve found out that we need to go gluten-free. We need to heal! And since about 80% of the immune system resides in the gut, we need to pay special attention to what we’re putting in our gut! We need to watch out for cross-contamination whether in grains that are inherently gluten-free or in products labeled gluten-free (and may have up to 19 ppm of gluten in them).

We need to avoid other irritants to our guts, as well as other foods that we may have allergies to, thanks to gluten causing leaky gut. Our diet needs to be dominated by fresh, wholesome foods, cooked in our “celiac-safe” kitchens. And the majority of those foods should be vegetables and proteins that are naturally gluten-free. We need to stop trying to replicate the diet we knew before, heavily-laden with bread and bread-like food products, labeled “gluten-free” or not.

Now that the term “gluten-free” has gone mainstream, we will no doubt see even more food manufacturers rushing to get a piece of the profitable gluten-free pie, meanwhile having us believe that their product will help us. Instead, the fact there are now so many readily available, better tasting GF products than existed before (its because of the sugar!) is blurring the message as to WHY we are going gluten-free.

There are many reasons why we find ourselves on the gluten-free diet. Most people have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, and serious related health complications. A handful think they might lose weight. And a few others are trying it to see if it makes them “feel better.” Whatever the reason, spending too much time in the GF aisle of the grocery store is not going to help us reach any of these health goals. We need to go beyond the gluten-free food aisle and take serious control of our diets. Unfortunately most doctors don’t tell us that. And you can forget about hearing that from food manufacturers.

Please pledge with me that you’ll go beyond gluten-free. And if you need help with navigating that, that’s what this community is here for.


  1. Christine Levine

    Heather, I mostly agree with your blog posts (this one and the last one). However, I do consume some gluten free grains (brown rice, quinoa, sorghum, millet, etc). When I eat grains, they are whole grains and I do all of my own baking. I also only buy grains/flours from trusted sources (mostly from Bob's Red Mill because they have a dedicated gluten free facility). The rest of the time I enjoy a whole foods diet. I have tried going totally Paleo and it doesn't work for me. No matter how many vegetables or how much protein I eat, I am still left feeling hungry and often unable to sleep. Adding in a small amount of whole grains solves this problem for me.

    I appreciated the first blog post about the new labeling law (I don't agree with it either), but not your insistence that everyone on a gluten free diet go Paleo. It simply does not work for all of us.


    • Heather Jacobsen

      Hi Christine,

      Thanks so much for your very honest opinion. I don't think that everyone on a gluten free diet should go Paleo. But I do think we need to learn to rely less on bread-like substances. I know that this is difficult to do, since we are so conditioned to think this way for most of our life. I also know that guacamole tastes better with corn chips, and liver pate tastes better with crackers (rather than cucumber rounds).

      I also believe that each person's body is unique and what works for one person may not work for another. If you are feeling great on your diet, then you are doing the right thing! No tweaking necessary. 🙂

      But especially for people who are new to the diet, I think its important to get away from grains as much as possible, at least until they've healed. Whether because of cross-contamination or cross-reactivity. And I definately think people should stay away from processed foods as much as possible.

  2. Hi Heather! Thank you so much for writing this. I completely agree with your thoughts and it makes me so sad that people reach to the highly processed gluten free products available, thinking they are doing the right thing for their health. Reading the ingredient list on many of these is shocking and disturbing. What it gets down to is eating real food, food that contains vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that nourish our bodies and minds. In fact, I don't even really mention the term gluten free anymore even though I have to be, I just refer to it as a whole foods lifestyle. I'm not going to say that I don't enjoy a bowl of Yogurt Lab salted caramel with olive oil drizzle, but again, it's everything in moderation. 


    Hope you are well! xo Amanda

    • Heather Jacobsen

      Thank you for comment, Amanda.  Yes, everything in moderation. If you are sticking to whole foods, and keeping your body healthy, then of course a little snack now and again is deserved. 🙂 

  3. Heather,

    I could not have written this better.  You hit the nail on the head!  I'm trying so hard to share what I have learned, and I worry for those that are trying to heal.

    I could have easily stopped after going gluten free.  Life was "good enough".  My autoimmune disorders were tolerable, my cholesterol had come down some, etc.  I actually felt pretty good, and really didn't have any digestive disorders.

    When I learned about the importance of being grain free, it stopped me in my tracks.  I began to grieve (again) the thought of giving up any of my foods that I had come to rely on.  But something told me there was something bigger and better for me, so (thank you, Lord!) I eliminated all grains and became healthy…for the FIRST time in my life!  It wasn't about digestive problems…it was about things internally, that I couldn't see or feel.  And I feel like this all happened to me, for the simple fact of teaching and helping others to achieve this secret to a new life that I am so grateful to have!  When I first started coaching, I suggested people go gluten free, because I felt like Christine…maybe it wasn't right for everybody. 

    I have completely changed my tune after trying that with several people, only to have them have the same experience as I did…they do NOT get healthy eating grains.  It has been a fight, and lots of people don't want to hear it, but it is true – there IS gluten in every grain.  If you know the history as to how Celiac disease was discovered, you will understand how there is this misconception about other grains being okay! 

    So, in order to further the effort, I formed a support group which is meeting weekly.  Each person in the group has a different set of issues…some were devastating and others just bothersome.  Each person has told me they were total skeptics in the beginning, but in just the short time since we started (about 2 months), the results have been AMAZING.  They feel better, younger, no more joint pain, sleeping better, blood sugar has been evened out (and thus hunger and cravings disappear), some are losing weight, and some are leaving their medications behind.  INCREDIBLE.

    And to Christine, I understand where she is coming from.  I hear it every day.  BUT, I could not have seen what I have now experienced in my own life and in the lives of those I've been coaching if I hadn't tried grain free.  I am not Paleo – I still consume dairy and legumes, although some of the dairy I do avoid.  I also find that many people THINK they have gone grain free, but never get the benefits of the true experience because they still have that one item that they either don't want to let go or aren't aware that they should.

    I commit to going beyond gluten free, Heather~!  And to continue coaching and teaching anyone that wants to hear about how their healthy life can be delicious in so many ways. 

    Cheers!  Keep up the GREAT work!

    ~Jen (The Gluten & Grain Free Gourmet)

    • Heather Jacobsen

      Thank you so much for your comment, Jen. I'm happy to hear there are others who understand where I coming from. It sounds like you are doing great work in your community.  Your clients are blessed to have you!


  4. connie curtis


    Thank you for writing this. I totally agree with you. I do know of one doctor that will tell you to avoid this crap food. I know I am finally getting well because I dont eat it and make most of my food. Its so worth it because of feeling good. I am out to help others feel good too and help them into a new lifestyle of eating. We are all out to help everyone feel good.


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