Is healthy eating just a fad?
If you've been paying attention the past several years, you know that gluten-free, organic, non-GMO, Paleo and many other dietary terms have risen drastically in popularity. But why? Is it all a fad? Why is everyone suddenly going on a cleanse?


This might surprise you, but we don't do it to be annoying. We also don't do it to be hip, nor because we think we're better than anyone else.

There are a lot of stereotypes in response to the recently blossoming popularity of healthy eating, with accusations of people merely jumping onto bandwagons, or mindlessly munching on kale just to be cool. Sometimes there's an attitude that healthy eaters are doing so for fun, and without regard to the inconvenience of others. People who are concerned about pesticides and GMOs have become a punchline.

What if the truth is that some people just don't feel good, and they want to change it? What if the reason everyone is suddenly trying to eat organic or go on a juice cleanse isn't just because it's popular, but rather because they are sick of feeling sick?

It is true that obsession with healthy eating can become unhealthy, but those situations are outliers and do not make up the bulk of people on the path of holistic living.

There are some things you might not know about healthy eaters. Many of us are on a personal journey of trying to heal our bodies. Many of us are this way because we have to be.

I made some terrible cupcakes the other day, to partake in a celebration. They were Paleo, made with coconut flour and raw honey. Normally, these Paleo cupcakes are delicious; convincing and sweet. They're a great treat for kids when parents prefer to avoid processed sugar and food dyes.

I'm off eggs right now, so I made egg-free ones for myself, not wanting to be left out. I used a flax egg with the hope that I wouldn't destroy the dessert too much. Flax eggs are a great egg replacer - in some recipes. In this particular recipe, it took normally light and fluffy vanilla cupcakes and turned them into hard brown lumps. I also topped them with some pretty horrible frosting made with plant-based protein powder which tasted like chalk, because I can't have dairy or sugar either.

Why would I do such a thing? Why take a delicious, sweet dessert and turn it into a gritty, chalky mess?

One thing is for certain: I don't do it for fun.

My family has a long history of various cancers, heart disease, and autoimmune disorders. Each of these issues can be genetic, and the risk of each can be lowered via lifestyle choices, including diet.

Taking this into consideration, I started experimenting with eliminating various foods to see how it affected my energy level, mood, and physical well-being.

After the birth of my first child, I had severe back pain. My family doctor recommended painkillers, which I tried out of desperation for a brief time before realizing why they are so incredibly addictive. I saw a physical therapist for a while, but didn't see any improvement.

A friend recommended seeing a chiropractor, but I had always been skeptical. I'd heard they were quacks, back-crackers with no medical training who try to rope you into seeing them forever. I mentioned to my physical therapist that I was thinking about seeing a chiropractor, and he had only negative things to say.

I finally went to see a chiropractor because I was desperate for a solution.

It was one of the best decisions I've ever made for my health. I hobbled into the office, entirely unable to stand or sit comfortably. After some x-rays (which my family doctor and physical therapist never offered), a thorough discussion about my lifestyle and my pain, and an adjustment, I hopped off the table in less pain than I'd experienced in months.

It only got better from there.

Related: Why Should You Care About Chiropractors in Texas?

It was through a discussion with my chiropractor that I learned my pain could be linked to my diet. I've been a fairly healthy eater for most of my adult life, but what I didn't know was that I was consuming foods that can cause inflammation, and that inflammation could be increasing my physical pain.

I also learned that inflammation is linked to inflammatory bowel disease, heart disease, arthritis and other autoimmune disorders, cancer, and even mental health issues. Inflammation can cause malabsorption of food as well, meaning that the nutrients from the healthy food I was eating weren't being absorbed.

Chronic, low-grade inflammation is linked to a wide variety of diseases. I figured with so many of these issues in my family, and with my own body already showing signs of an inflammation imbalance, I should try to tackle it now before serious health issues arose.

So, on a whim, I cut out the most inflammatory foods in my diet: dairy, sugar, refined grains, and gluten. It was hard at first, but not as hard as trying to live life with debilitating pain.

The difference was almost immediate. The inflammation in my body was significantly lowered, and my pain dissipated. In order to test my results and see if the cause really was the food, I abstained from inflammatory foods for a while, then reintroduced them one at a time.

The difference was, again, almost immediate. The ache came back with a vengeance. My headaches increased drastically. My body was sore every morning. I eliminated the triggering foods once more, and my pain went away. My skin was clearer and my mind was sharper as well. And so I made a permanent change.

But then I became that person who can't go out for a simple pizza party because the resulting inflammation will leave me in agony. I became that person who brings special food to a potluck and has to pick the cheese off a hamburger.

I also eat that hamburger on a pile of lettuce instead of a bun. I became that person who is always asking, "Is this gluten-free?" I became one of those healthy eaters, "obsessed" with my hip new diet.

In reality, I am someone who took my health into my own hands, made the necessary dietary changes, and now I feel a million times better.

Related: Healthy Foods on a Tight Budget? Here's How to Make it Work

At one point, I went to a doctor to get an official celiac test, to see if my apparent sensitivity was "real" or not. The doctor was perplexed as he explained to me that I would know if I had any food allergies, because I would go into anaphylactic shock. He said there was no point in testing for anything, but gave me the celiac test anyway. It came back negative.

So, even worse, I became one of those people who eats gluten-free, but doesn't actually have celiac disease. Yet, reintroducing gluten into my diet caused immediate bloating, inflammation, and indigestion. It should be noted that gluten-free products are often not healthy choices.

They are full of starches and sugar, and very little nutritional value. Going gluten-free doesn't inherently mean making healthy options, unless your choices are whole, unprocessed, naturally gluten-free foods, rather than the plethora of packaged snacks now on the market.

Eventually I saw a naturopathic doctor who ordered an in-depth food sensitivity test, which tested for reactions to a wide variety of foods. It turns out I have legitimate intolerances to eggs, dairy, and gluten, among other foods. This doesn't mean I have an immediate, life-threatening allergy, but a sensitivity is enough of a reaction to cause long-term problems.

Thankfully, removing the foods which trigger health issues for me has actually lead to the discovery of even more delicious, nutrient-dense foods. Life without dairy, sugar, and gluten isn't as bad as it might sound. The food I eat is amazing, not only because it tastes good, but because it is healing my body as well.

"Yeah but," you might be thinking, "I knew a guy who ate organic, gluten-free, raw vegan, Paleo for no reason!"

But do you really know it's for no reason? Are you really certain that your friend, neighbor, or coworker is essentially faking it? Do you really know how their bowels operate after they eat inflammatory foods? Do you know if their joint pain dissipates when they eliminate gluten? Do you know the inner workings of their body well enough to claim that they have no legitimate reason to explore a healthier diet?

You might be wondering if there is any real evidence to back up the claims of healthy eaters, or if it all happens to be coincidental.

Well, research from the American Journal of Gastroenterology shows that gluten causes gastrointestinal symptoms in people who do not have celiac disease.

Research also shows that "casein-related immune activation may relate to the psychosis and mania components" of bipolar disorder; in other words, dairy can trigger inflammation and immune processes that are linked to mental illness.

Casein has also been linked to schizophrenia in peer-reviewed research.

"Gluten Psychosis" is a thing.

Gluten can affect bipolar disorder as well.

Inflammation is linked to depression.

Inflammation is linked to multiple sclerosis, and many other autoimmune disorders.

Oxidative stress and inflammation have been linked to thyroid disorders.

Sugar causes heart attacks.

Children are at high risk of adverse effects from common food pesticides.

Health advantages of an organic diet have been "convincingly demonstrated to expose consumers to fewer pesticides associated with human disease."

Pesticides have been linked to ADHD.

Phthalates can increase the risk of ADD and learning disorders.

Bisphenol A (BPA) can cause infertility, cancer, neurological issues, diabetes, and more.

Inflammation is linked to Alzheimer's disease.

On the other hand, organic food has been found to contain higher levels of important nutrients like antioxidants and Omega-3s.

An anti-inflammatory diet can be used to treat bowel disorders.

In general, dietary choices are linked to disease prevention.

For many of us, that doesn't mean simply eating more fruits and vegetables. For anyone with gut health issues, food sensitivities, chronic inflammation, bowel disorders, or other issues, eliminating problematic foods is the first step. That means being one of those people: the people who can't eat eggs or order their pizza without cheese or constantly ask if something is gluten-free.

The idea that cheese is linked to schizophrenia, junk food can cause depression, or sugar can lead to an early grave might sound absolutely outlandish to some. But the evidence is there. And a person doesn't have to have a life-threatening allergy for their quality of life to be threatened by food.

I made myself some terrible cupcakes to celebrate with my family in a way that wouldn't lead to physical pain the next day. I eat my boring burger without cheese or mayo because I'm off dairy and eggs. I turn down dessert because sugar gives me a headache and brain fog. I bring weird snacks to the movie theater because it makes me feel a lot better than eating junk food.

I do none of this to feel superior or to be difficult. I do it because I have to. And most importantly, I do all of this because it works.