I still remember the early mornings when I woke up to the dreaded alarm in gray, rainy Seattle.

I opened and served breakfast at a higher-end café there. I was 20 years old and taking a year off of college to make some money. While serving the restaurant’s $1.99 breakfast special, I met all kinds of interesting people.

One morning a young woman came in and requested the oddest thing.

She wanted an oatmeal—plain—and lettuce. It was 7 a.m.


No, thank you.

Brown sugar and raisins?

No, thank you… just some orange juice, please.

As for the lettuce…

I asked if she wanted to have dressing?






The Armenian in me really wanted her to be well fed. But she was clearly content with her order as it was, so with a shrug, I took it to the chef.

I brought the lettuce, warm oatmeal, and fresh OJ to the table and she kindly smiled and thanked me. Then, as I began to walk away, out of the corner of my eye I saw her pour the orange juice onto the oatmeal and lettuce!

I reeled, trying to imagine how the juice would taste with the oats and lettuce. My palate could not make sense of it.

It was the strangest breakfast I had ever seen!

Little did I know that seven short years later, I would be the one leaving servers, friends, and family befuddled as I picked my way through a limited diet.

Food allergies were hardly ever heard about or discussed 30 years ago, so this woman seemed truly eccentric to me.

Now, having a limited diet is so common, many consider it a fad.

What do you think?

Is it a fad, or a healthy choice?

I recently dug into this question, concerning gluten allergies specifically, thanks to a question someone asked me on Facebook.

The writer, Rachel, asked me two questions:

The first:

(Maybe someone who was ticked off had told her this.)

My answer: NO, this is NOT true, yet I understand the frustration people with celiac disease feel when they have a hard time getting others to understand how dangerous it is for them to eat gluten!

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition. [1] If a person with celiac disease has even a smidgen of gluten—if, for instance, a grandmother puts almond butter on her wheat toast with a knife, t

Why? In the presence of gluten, the immune system attacks the lining of the intestines. It takes a very, very small amount to cause a reaction, and it can be intense.

Celiac disease IS genetic, but it does not always show up at birth. Those genes can “turn on” after you have lived for 10, 30, or even 50 years. This is why so many adults live undiagnosed.

The most common test for celiac disease is a blood test. [2] I recommend celiac testing if you:

– Have a first-degree relative with celiac disease (some people have the condition without showing symptoms) 

– Have unexplained symptoms (these DO NOT have to be related to digestion—some people just feel tired, for instance)


Rachel also asked me:

No. There is no way to know for sure without a test.

Personally, I have NOT been tested for celiac disease because I am not willing to eat gluten for six weeks. If, like me, you say NO WAY to the idea of eating gluten for six weeks, you may have celiac disease, or you may have what is called by many physicians Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity, or NCWS. [3] 

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (I think gluten is the culprit, so I use that term instead of “wheat” here) is still REAL, and can be very serious.

But unfortunately, there is not a definitive test for this condition—yet.

One of the reasons there is no test is that you could have a sensitivity to gluten for a few different reasons.

It may be because you have high inflammation levels overall. When you heal the underlying inflammation, the body will stop overreacting to gluten, and you’ll be able to eat it again without a reaction. We see this in people who heal from chronic illnesses—they can eat more foods once they’re healed.

Or it may be that gluten is not the culprit at all! It could be that the sugars IN gluten-containing products are what you can’t digest. The most common of these are fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols, also known as FODMAPs. You may have heard of the low-FODMAP diet. This diet helps a lot of people who suffer from symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome, or IBS.

Another possibility being discussed in gastroenterology journals is that the reactions experienced in the two conditions may take place in different parts of the intestines. Celiac autoimmune reactions occur high up in the duodenum. There is some thought and testing to show that in non-celiac gluten sensitivity, the immune reaction takes place lower down in the colon. Several miRNA testing studies are looking into this possibility. [4] 

So what should you do?

Believe what your body is telling you.

Eliminating and reintroducing foods remains the GOLD STANDARD for testing for food sensitivities. If you are still eating gluten and plan to do an elimination test, I suggest getting a test for celiac disease before you remove gluten from your diet.

Not sure how to do an elimination diet? I walk you through it here on my YOU TUBE channel.

If you know you cannot eat some foods, then just avoid them, smile, and know you are loving you. You can be like the woman I met many years ago, happy and content with what she knew worked for her.

Personally, I too now do VERY weird things (in the eyes of others) to support my body’s needs.

If you are willing to be “weird” and want more help and guidance on boosting your energy and overall level of health, ping me back. I am happy to support you in your journey by sharing effective and sometimes unusual ways to feel better!

In great health,

Dr. Jenny Tufenkian ND

P.S. Check out the footnotes for resources.

P.S.S.  Check this link below: I have to admit I LOVED this post! I relate—maybe you do too?

“10 Things Only Someone With a Gluten Sensitivity Would Understand”



[1] “Symptoms of Celiac Disease,” Celiac Disease Foundation, 

[2] “Testing,” Celiac Disease Foundation, 

[3] Consolato Sergi, Vincenzo Villanacci, and Antonio Carroccio, “Non-celiac wheat sensitivity: rationality and irrationality of a gluten-free diet in individuals affected with non-celiac disease: a review,” BMC Gastroenterology, January 6, 2021,

An explorative study identifies miRNA signatures for the diagnosis of non-celiac wheat sensitivity
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