“Gluten Free” doesn’t always mean Healthy

Originally Published by The Belle Method in The Purple Fig

Full disclosure: In January 2013 I discovered through several genetic lab tests I am highly sensitive to gluten. Basically indigestible gluten proteins had been creating little holes in my intestinal lining causing massive inflammation, immune deficiencies and a host of icky symptoms that I’ll spare you. No amount of Pilates could fight the bloat and discomfort. Many days I’d wear baggy t-shirts when teaching to hide the protruding hard-as-rock belly. After years of popping digestive enzymes, Pepto-Bismol and Rolaids, I finally got to the root cause.

 Eliminating gluten has been life changing to my digestion, energy levels, skin, and overall health.  It has also served me up a slice of humble pie. No one, not even “organic smoothie obsessed” Pilates instructors like me are immune to genetic food sensitivities.

Oh yeah, I’m also allergic to eggs (hardboiled eggs were my #1 snack), casein/dairy (no more Greek yogurt) and soy (no more soy protein shakes, tofu, edamame or stir fry sauces). Turns out that people with undiagnosed gluten allergies can develop additional food allergies over time because gluten essentially acts as sandpaper on their digestive tract, making it hypersensitive to foods they eat most often. All this creates inflammation in the body. Inflammation is the underlying cause of MS, Osteoporosis, Parkinson’s, Dementia, Arthritis, Fibromyalgia, Thyroid disorders and my favorite, Irritable Bowel Syndrome. And that, my friends, is just a short list.

Different bodies react differently to gluten. One person may have IBS, another may feel extreme fatigue, and another may develop thyroid problems or arthritis. Symptoms are truly all over the map. And therein lies the problem. We live in a medical community that prefers to take individual symptoms and prescribe drugs as treatment. Not only does this approach fail to address the root cause, it also negates the notion that there IS a root cause.


The truth is that there could be an explanation for the previously “unfixable” health issues you may be facing. I turned to Enterolab, a clinical lab based out of Texas that specializes in analyzing intestinal specimens for gluten sensitivity. You can select to have several different tests run on your samples. Be sure to do the Anti-TTG test (anti tissue transglutaminase IgA) which is the best test for celiac because it determines whether your body is autoimmune (recall that being “autoimmune” is a precursor to most diseases).

This experience of radical change has also made me 100% more empathetic to the clients I coach through extreme diet and lifestyle transformations. It IS possible to turn your health around. Part of that is learning to read food labels.

My issue with “Gluten Free” labels is that people are being misled into thinking their gluten free organic $7 chocolate covered pretzels, cereal puffs, tortilla chips and brownies are “healthy.” Newsflash…they’re not. Food producers have gotten savvy and are capitalizing on confused consumers’ growing demand for healthy products. Bottom line: “Gluten Free” is good marketing, and often commands a higher price – especially on packaged foods. Putting a GF label on boxes of Rice-a-Roni and cupcakes psychologically lessens the guilt of consuming foods we know aren’t good for us. It’s a trick people!! These GF foods often contain refined starches and high fructose corn syrup – ingredients that ironically contribute to health problems and obesity.

Here’s an example of the two main ingredients of Glutino’s Organic Chocolate Banana Breakfast Bar: ORGANIC BROWN RICE SYRUP, ORGANIC RICE CRISP(ORGANIC RICE MEAL AND ORGANIC RICE BRAN, WATER, ORGANIC CANE SUGARCORN STARCH, ORGANIC RICE EXTRACT, ORGANIC CARAMEL COLOR). We basically have processed rice, corn and sugar. Not exactly a breakfast of champions.

The real solution? First off, get tested for food allergies if you have any nagging health complaints or have hit a plateau in your fitness goals. I wish I’d done mine 10 years ago! Next, commit to trying a GF diet for 30 days. Take note of how you feel using a food journal. And above all, avoid the snack and cereal aisle and stick to the perimeter of your grocery store for fresh veggies, (grass fed) meats and (wild/sustainable) fish. These items that are naturally gluten free and don’t require labels at all.

Cheers to taking control of your health!


Tina Turner Inspired Leg Workout


Tina Turner insured her legs for $3.2 million. That’s a fact.  At 73 years old, Tina’s thighs are still rockin’! To pay homage to those gorgeous gams ( we should bring that word back from the 50s…”gams”), here’s a four-minute thigh workout that will tighten every inch of your legs. Want results? Do this every day for a week…it’s only four minutes!

Tina, we love you!!

The Bump Method – exercise during pregnancy

There are few things that change a woman’s body more quickly or dramatically than pregnancy.  Hormonal and emotional changes aside (that’s a different article!); the physical growth of the baby has profound implications for the mother’s body.

The Bump Method is a Pilates based exercise program designed to safely and effectively train women both during and immediately after pregnancy.  Our Pilates focus is crucial in that it focuses on creating pelvic stability; pelvic floor connection and it addresses muscular imbalances. To understand just why a specific Pre and Post Natal Fitness program is necessary, here’s a short list of some of the muscular changes that often take place during pregnancy.

–       Hamstrings lengthen

–       Hip flexors (psoas) shorten

–       Pelvis shifts anteriorly (i.e. lower back curve gets larger)

–       Hormone relaxin creates joint hyper mobility

–       Shoulders protract and internally rotate

–       Arches of feet flatten (pronate)

–       Outer glutes weaken as pelvis widens

–       Pectoral muscles tighten

–       Pelvic floor drops

–       Maximum heart rate changes in 1st, 2nd and 3rd trimesters

Studies have proven that moderate exercise during pregnancy is beneficial for both mother and unborn baby. Training can mitigate some of the physical changes listed above, can decrease back pain and can assist in an easier delivery. Training during pregnancy will also facilitate an easier post-baby recovery!

After the baby arrives, women so often struggle to “get their body back”.  Pilates focused training is the key to a safe and swift recovery. One of the greatest physical challenges after giving birth is the rehabilitating of stretched and separated abdominal muscles.  If the abdominal wall separates more than 1.5 cm  (2 fingers), this is called diastasis recti.  The Bump Method technique teaches women to work their core muscles intrinsically, or in other words, from the inside out.  This methodology helps repair both diastasis and caesarean sections by essentially drawing the deep layer of abdominal muscles back together.

To all the mothers out there, here’s to you!

We will be hosting a Bump Method Pre and Post Natal instructional workshop on Sunday October 27  from 1 pm – 4 pm at RPM Total Fitness Studio in The Junction. 2968 Dundas St. W, Toronto, ON. Registration coming soon.

Contact nikki@thebellemethod.com to reserve your spot.