Gut and Intestinal Health

What To Eat When Gluten-Free Is Not Enough


Food sensitivities reflect gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and overall discomfort. Additionally, multiple other symptoms like headache, wheezing, brain fog, depression, and even rheumatic diseases can be triggered by the food we are ingesting. These symptoms are easily found in patients with celiac disease, lactose intolerance, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and are treated with a dietary restriction to those specific foods. Nowadays, we know that some of these conditions can be associated with gut permeability, which might affect the tolerance to other cereal or grain-based foods. Gluten-free diets commonly substitute gluten-containing products with corn or rice, but some patients may develop a sensitivity to those foods as well. So, what can we eat when a gluten-free diet is not enough?

Laws of Restrictive Diets:

Recommending a restrictive dietary pattern to those patients with multiple food sensitivities represents a challenge. Indeed, the substitution of certain foods might provoke a nutrient deficiency or even take out a whole food group from the patient’s diet. Consequently, supplementation of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids is crucial to maintain balance and wellbeing.

Looking for alternatives:

In the particular case of lactose intolerance, all dairy products or derivates are taken out of the patient’s diet. Up until recently, alternative milk or yogurts were not easily found in local markets. This represented a problem since fermented dairy products predominately alter a healthy microbiome, and probiotics found in these foods could potentially benefit the patient.  

Luckily for us, now we can find different yogurt or milk alternatives. This brings back some familiarity to the patient’s diet since yogurts or a glass of milk can be used as quick grab-and-go food. 

Dairy alternatives:

  • Pea milk.
  • Almond milk.
  • Hemp milk.
  • Soy milk.
  • Coconut milk.
  • Rice milk.
  • Coconut yogurt.
  • Soy yogurt.
  • Almond yogurt.
  • Almond coffee creamer.
  • Ghee.
  • Coconut butter.

Gluten alternatives:

I will tell you a personal confession: When I started as a nutritionist, I work with an allergist providing the elimination of restrictive diets to his patients. They would go under an allergen-free elimination diet for the first month and then go through a skin-prick test. Some patients develop a rice or corn sensitivity after a few months of going through the elimination diet.

Many factors can explain this situation. For example, kids tend to have a more monotone diet and reject food alternatives and develop a new sensitivity after eating the same food over and over again. 

What can we eat when going gluten-free isn’t enough?

If I could go back, I would say to my past self: Give the parents ALL the different options or alternatives. Also, tell them to try to vary the options and watch for any new reactions.

Gluten alternatives:

  • Oats. Make sure they are certified gluten-free.
  • Rice.
  • Corn.
  • Sorghum.
  • Quinoa.
  • Teff.
  • Barley.
  • Buckwheat.

Vibrant Wellness

Corn and rice sensitivity:

Considering my previous experience and knowing all of the different testing tools we have today, I highly suggest taking a grain and corn sensitivity test. This past statement comes from looking at the faces of concerned parents who do not know what is going on with their children.

In addition, several grains have a similar protein structure as gluten and might cause a reaction. So, what is left to do when a rice or corn sensitivity es present. First of all, don’t panic, and let’s look for alternatives:

Corn and rice alternatives:

  • Sweetpotato.
  • Potato.
  • Bean chips.
  • Cauliflower rice.
  • Amaranth.

Creating a dietary pattern that is easy to follow, with varied food and alternatives, is crucial to detract from additional food sensitivities. Let’s also remember that part of a dietary elimination pattern is the re-introduction or challenge of certain foods to ensure dietary sufficiency. In addition, an elimination diet seeks to find gastrointestinal regeneration and control on the immune response. Once the GI tract is recovered and the symptoms have been reduced, the patient should feel free to reintroduce foods slowly. Also, everyone has a different set of food they are sensitive to. Therefore, it is highly recommended to consult a nutritionist for proper dietary changes. – Ana Paola Rodríguez Arciniega, MS.


Lerner, Aaron et al. “Navigating the Gluten-Free Boom: The Dark Side of Gluten-Free Diet.” Frontiers in pediatrics vol. 7 414. 15 Oct. 2019, doi:10.3389/fped.2019.00414

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Professional Scope of Practice *

The information herein on "What To Eat When Gluten-Free Is Not Enough" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own health care decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified health care professional.

Our information scope is limited to chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, sensitive health issues, functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions. We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.

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Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CCST, IFMCP*, CIFM*, ATN*


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