A great deal of hot air has already been generated by the seeming match-winning fall out from Novak Djokovic’s gluten-free diet so I only propose to add a very small extra puff.
The coeliac community and coeliac awareness has benefitted greatly from the coverage although there is actually no evidence to suggest that Djokovic is coeliac. He has certainly never claimed to be so, even though normally reliable papers such as the Independent have classed him as such. Other papers, such as the Wall Street Journal, suggested that Djokovic’s nutritionist ‘discovered that he is allergic to gluten’ although no evidence has been produced to show that he has what is technically defined as an allergy (an immune system reaction) to gluten.
Alex Gazzola, in his Food and Allergy Intolerance Ink blog took the trouble to Google Igor Četojević, Djokovic’s nutritonist. Dr Četojević is a student of both ancient Chinese and Indian medicines, a practitioner of holistic and energy medicine and uses biofeedback machines in the course of his diagnoses.
Alex and many others dismiss his approach as ‘unscientific’ and therefore not valid e.g. there is no research in terms of the double blind placebo controlled trials (the gold standard of western medical research) to validate it. However, given western medicine’s many, and well documented, failures to address, treat or cure so many acute and chronic conditions, I do not feel that its opinion on alternative approaches is worth that much….
But whatever about his diagnostic methods, on the index page of his website Dr Četojević states the following:
The first thing you can do to help you body heal itself and work at its optimal level is to stop feeding it with toxins, so common in our world that we don’t even realise the harm they are doing and the level at which they compromise our health.
The most obvious of these toxins is the food that we eat. The body’s best diet is food grown naturally (organically), in season, in the place where we live. If you need some motivation to stop eating packaged foods just read the ingredients on the label! Most prepared foods and drinks you find in the supermarket contain many chemicals, preservatives, flavour enhancers, artificial colours and other additives that tax the body and sap its vital energy to cleanse itself.
Given that of all ingredients used in western food production, gluten is probably the most over used, denatured, and nutritionally empty, merely following Dr Četojević’s basic precept to only eat naturally grown, organic, seasonal and local foods (which by definition virtually excludes gluten) could have been enough to improve Djokovic’s health and therefore performance.
Personally, I doubt that Djokovic is coeliac or is allergic to gluten; indeed I doubt that he is seriously even intolerant of gluten. However, I am not remotely surprised that removing gluten from his diet (and thereby all of the other over processed, fatty, sugary, gut-clogging foods that contain it) has improved his health, fitness, powers of endurance, attention span, focus, clear-headedness – and thereby his ability to win tennis matches.