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!


      • Thank YOU, Heather!  I'm blessed by this opportunity to help others!

        I'm so happy that we have connected and have found this common ground.  It makes me think of when just the simple term "gluten free" even started…I'm sure there were lots of people that thought it was crazy (well, there are lots of people who STILL think that, lol!).  We are just in a unique place at this moment, the start of something new.  

        I'm not giving up, and I'm glad we can further these efforts together. 🙂


    • Christine Levine

      Jen, I wish could tolerate grain free. I have tried on multiple occasions and have not been able to maintain it. My body is apparently not designed to subsist on smoothies for breakfast and no grains/carbs/starches, etc. I cannot stand the flavor of eggs (not intolerant, just a preference issue) and too many grain fee/paleo recipes call for tons and tons of eggs (could someone please explain why). I also cannot tolerate anything with high fat levels (other than nuts), except in very limited quantities – so sausage and eggs for breakfast is out (I also have a long commute and need something I can eat in the car). If I go grain free or paleo for too long, I develop low blood sugar (so much so that I cannot work) and my body becomes too acidic (so much so that I have begun developing symptoms of interstitial cystitis). I am not sure if I have totally healed my gut at this stage (I am still having autoimmune issues), but am unable to follow a grain free diet. I do however follow a whole foods diet which includes whole grains and some legumes (again more of a personal preference thing for me (I do not like beans as beans)). Could the change from a typical American diet to a whole foods diet, whether it contains grains or not, be the true reason most people notice a dramatic change in their overall health, rather than because they gave up all grains?

      • Christine,

        You have some great questions!  And I want to congratulate you on following a whole foods diet, that's great!  A big step in the right direction!

        I'm sorry that a grain free lifestyle hasn't worked for you.  One of my clients also could not stand the flavor of eggs, so I know a little about what you are dealing with.  The reason that many grain free/paleo recipes call for eggs is because they help bind in the baking process.  The gluten in grains is the "sticky stuff" that helps baked goods stay together, and thickens all of those other things (soups, gravies, yogurts, etc.).  Without something like that in a baked good, there wouldn't be any "puffy" rising to anything.  Eggs baked in something are still fairly flat, but do give a little bit of rise (to resemble dough) and have the added bonus of acting as a binding agent to hold ingredients together.

        I'm curious about what your situation is, so I'm going to fire off some questions to help me understand more about it.  Let me know your thoughts:

        • When you say you cannot tolerate anything with high fat levels other than nuts, what is your intolerance like?  Is it a digestive intolerance, or something else?  
        • When you experience low blood sugar, is it at the same time every day?  Or are you aware what you have eaten prior experiencing the low blood sugar?
        • When you talk about having autoimmune issues, would you be willing to share what they are? (or message me privately if you prefer).  
        • My biggest question is whether you have any level of gluten intolerance – have you been diagnosed (self or otherwise) gluten intolerant, gluten sensitive, or have Celiac?   

        The change from a typical American diet to a whole foods diet will unquestionably have an impact on just about any person.  Removing processed food absolutely changes everything about how your body metabolizes and reacts to what it is receiving, so yes – in that sense it is a true reason that people will notice a change to their overall health.  However, if you have ANY form of a gluten intolerance, the simple fact remains that a person will NOT heal from their affliction by continuing to eat gluten or grain, even by making the change to a whole foods diet.  Many people, as Heather cited, do not fully heal their gut, and without that, good health cannot be fully achieved. 

        I would love to hear from anyone who is gluten free and not grain free, and is 100% lab-certifiably healthy.  I was asked this very question in my support group – why can some people be okay on a gluten free diet and others not?

        The answer I gave her is that it's all about what happens silently in the body, and not necessarily about digestive reactions.  People may THINK they are okay on a gluten free diet.  I did for a while!  But when I found out that eliminating grain "fixed" the rest of me (and things I didn't even know were "wrong"), I was shocked.  It's about internal inflammation that most people don't feel, which is often the source of autoimmune issues.  It's about elevated cholesterol levels.  It's about blood sugar measurements.  It's about how fast or slow a pulse is.  It's about acne.  It's about sinus pressure and even allergies.  I just had a member of my support group message me…she only came initially to the group to support another person.  She was already gluten free, and just wanted to help a co-worker get started.  She listened to my story and decided to try grain free.  A couple of weeks in, she told me that she had been skeptical, but now she just felt so much better – younger, no pain, no blood sugar issues.  She couldn't believe it!  In her message yesterday, she shared that she just had her labs checked…in the EIGHT WEEKS we've been meeting, her cholesterol came down FORTY POINTS (which is also what happened to me).  No medication, no other change, except to remove "gluten free" foods from her diet, along with anything with soy (she had mostly eliminated that but not entirely).  

        I share this with you because it really is important to me that people hear the message…if you have any form of gluten intolerance, you can be 100% healthy by changing what you eat. But, if you have any affliction at all and are gluten intolerant, the affliction is the body's way of warning that you could be in danger of something worse down the line.

        I would love to help you in any way.  If you don't feel good on a Paleo diet or a grain free diet, of course you wouldn't want to pursue either of them.  Have you worked with anyone to review what you are eating, how often you are eating, etc.?  That is truly the key…I am concerned about any autoimmune issue that is still plaguing you, because that can definitely change for the better by eating the right things for you.  I would love for you to be free from that!

        Let me know your thoughts.  Perhaps our conversation can help others as well.


        • Heather Jacobsen

          I'm also curious as to both of your thoughts on the idea of sprouted grains?  For some that cannot go grain-free, I've read that this might be the way to go. I haven't experimented with it myself, although I used to love the Ezekial sprouted grain bread, before they started adding gluten to it.

          • I have not experimented with the sprouted grains.  There was someone on my Facebook page that was going to try it and report back, but I never heard the outcome.  I personally don't have some of the serious and debilitating digestive reactions to gluten and grain (thankfully) that some of my clients experience, but just the risk of the inflammation it causes me in general makes it not worthwhile to consider at this point.

            However, I would never have gone grain and soy free if someone hadn't explained to me the why behind it.  I would love for someone to present something on ancient grains so I can have a clear understanding of the benefits to trying it and the "guarantee" that it wouldn't damage any of the healing I have experienced.  Let me know if you hear any more about this!


        • Christine Levine


          Thank you for your response. I am glad that you, and Heather and others, have felt better when going completely grain free. The point of my comments has simply been to shed light on the fact that grain free does not work for every body.

          I have been gluten free for close to 9 years and completely dairy free for over 3 years. I never tolerated the "traditional" gluten free recipes very well (those with cupfuls of cornstarch, potato starch, tapioca starch, etc) so switched to whole grains (which I used to consume before the celiac diagnosis) that were gluten free. I mainly consume the following grains (when I eat them): brown rice, millet, sorghum, and quinoa (I know some people consider this a grain, I do not) along with some occasional corn (organic only), oats (certified gluten free) and buckwheat and some occasional legumes (while I don't care for beans as beans, I do like hummus, peanut butter, and developed a fabulous recipe for brownies using black beans).

          When I consume high levels of fats, I experience some very uncomfortable GI symptoms (best description is that my intestines feel as though they are tying themselves in knots). The only fat that I can consume without worrying about the quantities is nuts (almonds, walnuts, etc).

          I have never been diagnosed with low blood sugar (but did test positive for a slight glucose intolerance), but some of the fatigue and brain fog that I feel when trying to maintain a 100% grain free diet goes away after consuming complex sugars (i.e., whole grains). I have had issues with simple sugars for longer than I can remember (hence the switch to whole grains), and do my best to avoid them altogether (closest I typically come is the occassional serving of potatoes or bowl of homemade organic popcorn (I do use some sugar for baking, but it is the organic unrefined sugar)). As for the time of day, I have never been able to pinpoint anything exactly. However, when I wake up in the morning, my body is in elimination mode and I am often starving (eat dinner between 8 and 9 PM most nights so it is not a lack of food). At that point, a smoothie is just not enough (even if I add peanut butter or almond butter for protein). If I am going to have a smoothie, I also need something with it (muffins, toast, etc). I usually eat a larger breakfast (typically a sandwich on my homemade gluten free bread or muffins and lunch meat), a small lunch (homemade protein bar and fruit), an occasional snack in between, and then a moderately sized dinner (consists of veggies, protein and a small-moderate portion of whole grains), and occasionally a bit of dessert. This method of eating a larger breakfast, a light lunch, and a moderate sized dinner has worked for me for a long time. If I reduce the size of the breakfast, I wind up feeling hungry all day and overeating (mostly junk) throughout the day and night.

          In terms of other autoimmune issues, I was diagnosed with Grave's disease nearly four years ago and have been on low dose block and replace therapy for most of that time (can explain separately if you'd like). For the last several months, I have been having some sort of autoimmune issues (no diagnosis yet) with intermittent low grade fevers, and periods of extreme fatigue and weakness.

          I tried grain free several months ago due to some persistent GI issues that were related to low levels of probiotics (they cleared up when I began taking a high dose probiotic, because they started after taking a powerful antibiotic for a sinus infection last year). I have also developed symptoms of interstitial cystitis lately (not sure if it is related to any of this other stuff or not) and find that those symptoms are worse when I remove/drastically reduce my grain intake (interstitial cystitis can be aggravated by too much acidity in the body). A while back, I completed Dr. Mercola's diet type questionnaire, and it came back that I am the type that needs some whole grains/complex carbs in the diet.

          If you, or anyone else reading this post, is interested in gluten free, dairy free, reduced sugar, reduced fat recipes, you can visit my website located at:


          • GGFGourmet


            I've been doing a little research since you posted this.  Did you have your thyroid removed due to the Grave's disease?  Also, what are the medications you are taking with regard to your thyroid?  (You mentioned a low dose block and replace therapy…and is there anything additional?)

            The interstitial cystitis is a direct result of that silent inflammation I was referencing above.  This will disappear if you are able to remove every single source that is causing the inflammation.  

            Let me know what medications you are taking and I'll work on providing some other thoughts. Have you worked with anyone to review what you are consuming?




  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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