Gluten-free, meat-free, lactose-free… Food avoidance, a risky practice

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Gluten-free, meat-free, lactose-free... Food avoidance, a risky practice

It is in tune with the times. Store shelves are full of “free” products: gluten-free, animal-derived, lactose-free.

“All this sometimes gives the impression that certain products are bad for our diet, it is anxiety-provoking and it maintains the cacophony”, regrets Sophie Schaeffer, micronutritionist.

And that sometimes encourages people to avoid or proscribe certain foods without medical reason, without professional advice and without monitoring by a nutritionist or dietitian. “It can generate deficiencies and it is not appropriate”.

Differentiate between allergy and hypersensitivity

“The only people who absolutely must avoid certain foods are those with allergies. Allergy causes an immediate reaction, even an anaphylactic shock and therefore imposes the total eviction of the allergen. In the case of gluten, for example, people who suffer from celiac disease must completely eliminate it from their diet. In the other cases, we rather speak of hypersensitivity; there is no serious risk in the short term, but in the long run it can irritate and cause chronic inflammation.”

Without being allergic, but being able to feel discomfort, many people today opt for a gluten-free diet.

“Bread is one of the basics of our diet, but it must be recognized that bread today is no longer the bread of yesteryear: it is much more processed and it can be rich in additives – unless you choose bread with sourdough, with organic flours”, concedes Sophie Schaeffer.

That would justify eviction? No, answers the nutritionist, who offers an alternative. “Insofar as the eviction is motivated by discomfort, it is interesting to do a hypersensitivity assessment to clearly identify the food in question. It is not reimbursed, but some laboratories practice it, a bit of the same way as allergy tests. Allergists are not “fans” of them; according to them, we are allergic or we are not. But research shows that hypersensitivity is real, and has long-term consequences, generating leaky gut that causes the immune system to overreact. »

It therefore suggests, in case of hypersensitivity, other solutions than total eviction. “We can, for example, vary the cereals, favor quality products, traditionally made, with old varieties. It’s more interesting than a gluten-free industrial product, which is also fattier, sweeter and richer in additives, in short, not very qualitative.”

other motives

Vegetarian and vegan diets (depending on the case, without meat, but also without fish, without eggs, without milk) are equally frequent dietary practices, involving avoidance.

“The motivations are broad and go beyond the simple question of health, notes Sophie Schaeffer. They are also ethical, environmental. A turn is possible but it is important to be followed, because according to the degree of eviction, the risk of deficiencies is proven, in particular in vitamin B12, iron, zinc, iodine, vitamin D, omega 3 or proteins. This can impact the bones but also the immune system and cognitive functions. alert the nutritionist.

Among the other risks identified: intestinal disorders. “With this type of diet, we increase the portions of vegetables and legumes, and therefore fiber, which can generate digestive symptoms. As with any change, it is important to go very gradually to avoid this type of inconvenience. “

Beware of orthorexia

There remains another risk, perhaps more sneaky. “Eviction is a spiral that can lead to psychological disorders and in particular to orthorexia (an eating disorder characterized by an obsession with healthy eating), alert the micronutritionist, with anxiety about food and eating disorders that have consequences for both health and social life.

Also“before deciding to remove a food, you really have to think about your motivation, do it for the right reasons and in the right way to avoid deficiencies, concludes Sophie Schaeffer. And that ideally starts with a good track record.”

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