How Discovering Gluten Sensitivity Helped Tennis Super Star Novak Djokovic Become the World No. 1

novak djokovic tennis star

By Nikola Djordjevic,

Going “gluten-free” has been such a trending buzzword for quite a while now, and you need to look no further than your supermarket shelves, which now sport an entire section of gluten-free products, ranging from food to personal care items.

This goes to show just how popular the gluten-free diet is these days. Statistics reveal that out of the 3.1 million Americans who have decided to go gluten-free, only over a quarter (28%) of these individuals actually have a medical condition involving an intolerance (such as celiac disease), sensitivity, or an allergy to gluten.

The reason why we’ve been hearing so many miraculous stories about people who have claimed to have been healed by getting rid of all gluten-containing products from their diet is that so many have gone misdiagnosed or undiagnosed.

As much as 95% of those afflicted with a gluten-related condition don’t even know they have it, and as much as 30 to 40% of our population could actually have a gluten sensitivity of sorts. Truly anyone can be affected by it.

In 2010, the Serbian tennis superstar Novak Djokovic consulted Dr. Igor Cetojevic, who shortly confirmed an observation that Djokovic’s left arm was noticeably weaker than his right.

But more than this disparity in arm strength, Dr. Cetojevic was more curious about what he saw during the Australian Open: Djokovic was having difficulty catching his breath during the match. He even vomited violently during a bathroom break.

It was at this point that Dr. Cetojevic theorized that Djokovic might actually be gluten-sensitive. This explained a lot to the tennis star, as he recalled several occasions in the recent past where he collapsed during several matches, attributing it to overexertion and exhaustion.

So Djokovic started a gluten-free diet. While tests revealed that he doesn’t have celiac disease, this change in lifestyle vastly improved his health and performance very quickly. (In fact, Novak very soon after the change became the world No. 1 tennis player for the first time in his career.

Our advice: consult your doctor about the possibility of a gluten sensitivity or intolerance if you think you’ve felt something wrong you couldn’t quite attribute to a particular cause. Especially if the feeling is the most intense after a gluten-rich meal. Going gluten-free might just be for you, as you don’t have to have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity to fully appreciate the benefits of a gluten-free diet.

To help you better understand the gluten-free lifestyle and what it entails, have a look at this helpful infographic we found at

Infographic on living a gluten free life



Study: Don’t go Gluten-Free if You Don’t Have Celiac Disease

Are you eating a gluten-free diet, but you don’t have celiac disease? A new study suggests that you may not want to make that move. Not only does a gluten-free diet not prevent heart disease, but researchers say avoiding gluten when you don’t have celiac disease could lead to cardiovascular disease and more.

According to the study, people without celiac disease who go gluten-free could wind up with serious health problems, because a gluten-free diet is associated with lower consumption of whole grains, which are associated with a lower risk of heart disease. [1]

Read: “Maybe it’s not the Gluten,” Study Says to the Public

Researchers write in The BMJ that “the promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged.”

For people with gluten sensitivity – those who don’t have celiac disease, but have abdominal pain and other problems when they eat gluten – it still makes sense to restrict gluten intake.

However, Dr. Andrew T. Chan, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, says:

“It is important to make sure that this [gluten restriction] is balanced with the intake of non-gluten containing whole grains, since these are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.”

Wheat, rye, and barley are all sources of gluten. When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, it triggers an immune reaction that damages the lining of the small intestine. Based on that knowledge, many people who don’t have celiac disease adopt a gluten-free diet, assuming that it is a healthier lifestyle choice.

Says Chan:

“The popularity of a low gluten or gluten-free diet in the general population has markedly increased in recent years.

However these findings underscore the potential that people who severely restrict gluten intake may also significantly limit their intake of whole grains, which may actually be associated with adverse cardiovascular outcomes.

The promotion of gluten-free diets among people without celiac disease should not be encouraged.” [2]

Read: Eating Whole Grains Could Extend Your Life

For the study, researchers looked at data from nearly 120,000 health professionals over the age of 26. The participants periodically answered questions over a 26-year period concerning the types of food they ate. Based on participants’ answers, the Harvard team estimated how much gluten each individual consumed in his or her diet.

The researchers also gathered data on whether participants suffered a heart attack during the study, which was considered a proxy for the development of coronary artery disease. [1]

The scientists, upon dividing the participants in to 5 groups based on the amount of gluten they ate, discovered that those in the group that ate the most gluten were no less likely to have a heart attack than those in the group that ate the least gluten.

At first glance, the data appeared to show that gluten intake was associated with a lower risk of heart attack. But the lower risk wasn’t due to gluten consumption itself. Instead, it was linked with the consumption of whole grains associated with gluten intake.

Source: Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

The team wrote:

“These findings do not support the promotion of a gluten-restricted diet with a goal of reducing coronary heart disease risk.”

The news gets worse. The researchers also found that eating only small amounts of gluten, or not eating it at all, increased the risk of diabetes by 13%. Another “Debbie Downer” finding was that people who ate the least gluten were 15% more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease compared with those who ate the most. [2]

The researchers concluded that “promotion of gluten-free diets for the purpose of coronary heart disease prevention among asymptomatic people without celiac disease should not be recommended.” [3]


[1] LiveScience

[2] The Telegraph

[3] The Sun

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

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