Recently, Tennis pro Novak Djokovic made national headlines when he likened his domination of the sport to cutting gluten out of his diet. Similarly, New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees reportedly follows a gluten free diet, and they won the Superbowl in 2010.
Generally, I’m not the biggest fan of someone cutting gluten from their diet if they aren’t allergic or intolerant to it because it tends to contribute that much more mis-information to the already large pot of misconceptions surrounding gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease. For those of us who have to actually “be” gluten free for health reasons, the perception of the lifestyle as a “fad diet” can make life difficult; It could result in a chef or kitchen staff at a restaurant taking cross contamination less seriously, which could make someone with gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease very very sick. One can hope that more awareness of Celiac will lead to more accurate diagnoses, but the reality is that many articles note that people with Celiac who accidentally ingest gluten will get “very sick,” but is its rarely reported that the effects of gluten can range from a stomach ache to debilitating neurological pain and it can take up to 6 MONTHS for a Celiac body to heal after being glutened. It’s a serious disease, and not something to be taken lightly.
In Djokovic’s case, it seems as he actually has an intolerance to gluten or Celiac Disease and a legitimate reason to stay away from gluten, and his sudden performance boost may very well be related to the fact that he no longer consumes what his body perceives as poison. When I first removed gluten from my diet, after being diagnosed by my doctor, it was like night and day. I didn’t even realize how bad I had been feeling until I stopped feeling crappy (pun absolutely intended), fatigued and was no longer plagued with “foggy brain.”
Now, it seems, we can add two more to the proverbial growing list of gluten-free athletes. Karl Alzner and Jay Beagle of the much-beloved Washington Capitals hockey team have cut gluten from their diets. As the only team that DC residents proudly admit to love, I’m curious to see if the elimination of gluten from their diets has the same affect on their performance as it has on Djokovic.
I’ll be at their game next Tuesday (Rock the Red!) cheering in the stands, and if they win, maybe they’ll celebrate
with me with a hotdog in a gluten free bun and knock back a few of those Redbridge gluten free beer‘s that Karl Alzner is so fond of (both of which are served in the concessions at the Verizon Center).