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"Honestly, I just feel better when I don't have gluten or wheat or dairy."

Anthea Levi
February 01, 2017

When it comes to her diet, Jessica Biel believes in balance. She doesn't follow any one regimen, and she hasn't banned sugar, or cheese. (Her cheat days involve cookies and pizza.)

"I'm not all-out anything," as she put it in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times. 

But the 34-year-old actress has noticed that certain foods leave her feeling, well, less than great: "Honestly, I just feel better when I don't have gluten or wheat or dairy," she said. "My digestion is better, I feel better, I have more energy."

So what does the mom to one-year-old Silas (her son with husband Justin Timberlake) eat on an average, non-cheat day?

 “We’ll start off with Paleo pancakes with some cashew or almond butter on top with some local honey, and we like chicken-apple sausage, and then maybe a fresh juice from the Juicero machine, which we love, we have some green tea with honey—that’s a pretty normal morning for me,” she said.

At lunchtime, Biel might pick greens from her family's garden, and throw in some quinoa, or her favorite veggie burger from Whole Foods, along with nuts. Later she'll snack on gluten-free pretzels with dairy-free almond 'cheese' dip. “And then dinner, if we’re home, it would be cooking up some salmon, some rice, grilling some vegetables, or going out and having some chicken, something a little heartier for dinner,” Biel said.  

It sounds like Biel has her healthy-eating routine down pat. But does cutting back on gluten and dairy make sense for everyone?

It may help some people, says Health’s contributing nutrition editor, Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD. Anyone who has an ongoing inflammatory condition—such as eczema or psoriasis—or chronic digestive problems (like bloating) might benefit from cutting out gluten and dairy, she says. And people who have symptoms like unexplained fatigue, joint pain, or "brain fog" might want to experiment with these dietary changes.

"I have many clients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) who feel better and experience a relief from symptoms, including bloating and fatigue, when they avoid gluten," Sass adds. "NCGS isn't the same as Celiac disease, but in people with this condition, gluten triggers gut inflammation."

Dairy can also cause inflammation in people with NCGS, as well as those who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, she says.

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If you do decide to break up with gluten or dairy on a trial basis, know that it may be a while before you notice any changes, Sass adds: "Some people may experience relief from symptoms within a week, but it can take a full month for others."

And make sure that during your experiment, you're eating nutrient-rich, balanced meals full of whole foods, she urges. "I think the best approach is to work with a dietitian who specializes in food sensitivities so he or she can help you properly eliminate potential triggers without creating nutritional imbalances," says Sass. (For more advice, check out 5 Things You Should Know Before You Try an Elimination Diet.)