Gluten-free diets have become much more mainstream over the past couple of decades, mainly due to increased awareness of gastrointestinal gluten allergies. More than 20 million Americans suffer from gluten sensitivity, and the number of gluten-free foods available has significantly increased.
Unfortunately, more of us are ditching bread for all the wrong reasons. Some people believe it’s healthier to have a gluten-free diet since it helps in weight loss. However, there is still no scientific proof to back these claims.
For whatever reason you are ditching gluten, here are some facts you need to know before starting your gluten-free journey.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is the general name given to the proteins found in rye, wheat, barley, and triticale. This name comes from the Latin word for glue. Simply put, gluten helps food to maintain its shape, acting as a glue that holds the food together.
This glue-like property helps the gluten to create a sticky network which given bread the ability to rise when baked. But that’s not all. Gluten is also responsible for giving bread that satisfying chewy texture.
Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet
After being confined to health food stores for years, gluten-free products are in demand now more than ever. Supermarket aisles are flooded with gluten-free products, and many restaurants even offer gluten-free options.
If you still don’t get what all this fuss about gluten is about, here are a few health benefits of a gluten-free diet:
1. Improves Energy Levels
People suffering from gluten sensitivity experience chronic fatigue. This is because gluten damages their intestines making the absorption of nutrients difficult. Deficiency of iron, for example, can lead to cases of anemia, which causes fatigue.
Switching to a gluten-free diet will give your intestines a chance to absorb all the nutrients your body needs. This helps to improve energy levels.
2. Promotes Healthy Weight Gain
Yes. You read that right. Contrary to common belief, a gluten-free diet can help you gain weight. Healthy weight.
Some of the symptoms of gluten intolerance include bloating, gas, fatigue, and diarrhea. For extended periods, these symptoms might lead to nutritional deficiencies and in some cases, severe weight loss. A gluten-free diet can help you regain lost weight.
3. Say Goodbye to Bloating
If you are suffering from gluten intolerance, you are likely to experience excessive gas after eating food with traces of gluten. After switching to a gluten-free diet, you should notice immediate results, and your stomach might be flatter after your meal.
4. Reduces Lactose Intolerance
People suffering from gluten-based disorders often show symptoms of lactose intolerance. Why? This is because the lining of your intestines produces lactase enzymes, which break down dairy products.
If you have gluten tolerance, damage to the gut might impair lactase production. And although this effect is temporary, it’s still uncomfortable. A gluten-free diet helps to promote gut health, meaning better digestion.
5. Better Skin
People suffering from gluten-related disorders have been linked to a higher risk of rashes including psoriasis and eczema. If this is you, following a gluten-free diet will help improve the overall health of your skin.
Different Gluten Allergies
Many people can eat gluten without experiencing any side effects. However, people with gluten intolerance say otherwise. Those with celiac disease and non-celiac sensitivity should avoid gluten. These are the two main disorders experienced by people around the world. Below we take a deeper look into both.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease affecting up to 1% of the global population. With this condition, the body mistakes gluten for a foreign object and attacks it. This disease damages the lining of the small intestines. And over time, the damage prevents the absorption of nutrients from food.
People with celiac disease often experience diarrhea, constipation, stomach discomfort, skin rashes, weight loss, anemia, fatigue, and bloating. However, some people with the condition never experience digestive symptoms. Instead, they feel tired and depressed.
For this reason, it’s best to get tested just to be sure.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity
This condition is estimated to affect between 0.5-13% of people around the world. Mostly this is because people with this condition don’t test positive for celiac disease or wheat allergy. However, they still experience discomfort when they consume gluten.
Symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity are the same as those of celiac disease. However, there is a lot of debate surrounding the condition. Some professionals believe that this condition does exist, while others believe that it’s a result of psychological factors.
Also, the same symptoms can be caused by FODMAPS, which are short-chain carbohydrates (sugars) known to cause discomfort. At the end of the day, whether the condition is real or not, you should see a doctor after gluten-related discomfort.
Foods to Stay Away From
Kicking gluten away from your life can be challenging. This is because gluten is present in many foods.
As such, here are the main sources of gluten you should avoid:
- Wheat-based food like semolina, durum, kamut, spelt, wheat flour, and wheat bran
- Brewer’s yeast
You should also stay away from:
- Baked goods
- Snack foods like candy, roasted nuts, popcorn, pretzels, and crackers
- Pasta and cereals
Luckily, there is still life after gluten. With the many options to choose from, gluten intolerant people can still enjoy healthy and delicious meals.
Here are a few gluten-free options you should try:
- Meat and fish
- Dairy products like milk and cheese
- Fruits and vegetables
- Nut and seeds
- Herbs and spices
- Starches and flours like corn flour, potato flour, chickpea flour, and soy flour
- Beverages except for beer
- Spreads and oils
Before You Leave
Whether you’ve been officially diagnosed or you diagnosed yourself, welcome to the gluten-free world. You join a well-informed community that is looking out for your health.
However, if symptoms do not improve or are severe, you should get tested by a registered medical practitioner.
At Diamond Physicians, your health is our top priority. Through our Concierge Medicine program, we ensure that all our clients receive tailored medical solutions wherever they are and whenever they need them. Contact us today for more information.