According to estimates, more than 3 million people in the United States are following a gluten free diet. In fact, 72 percent of them not being diagnosed with celiac disease.
You’ve probably heard about the gluten free diet by now. It’s a hot fad right now, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for you.
Gluten free products are everywhere and maybe you want to jump on the bandwagon and do what’s right for your health.
Not so fast! It’s always best to talk to your doctor before starting a new meal plan, especially one that restricts entire food groups.
A gluten free diet means no wheat, rye, or barley. This eliminates much of the bread, cereal, and other grain products on store shelves.
If you’ve received the go-ahead from your physician, here are some of the benefits people report from making the switch to gluten free meals.
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You Need Gluten Free Products if You have Celiac Disease or a Gluten Intolerance
The biggest health reasons why people choose to follow a gluten free diet are celiac disease or an intolerance to gluten.
Celiac disease causes an autoimmune response in the intestines when it’s consumed.
Over time this damages the hairs in the intestines, preventing your body from absorbing nutrients from the foods you eat.
This can lead to nausea, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating, and anemia. All of these can lead to other serious health complications if left untreated.
Gluten intolerance causes adverse digestive symptoms when gluten is eaten but isn’t necessarily dangerous to your health like celiac disease.
You’ll need a diagnosis from a medical professional to determine the cause of your symptoms.
Going Gluten Free May Promote Weight Loss
Because many foods that contain gluten are carb-heavy, eliminating them from your meal can help you drop some excess weight.
Foods that contain gluten include cake, cookies, brownies, donuts, cinnamon rolls, ice cream sandwiches, pizza, pasta, and much more.
These foods are very high in calories and fat so forgoing them can help you lose weight.
Some gluten-free alternatives aren’t healthy choices either so you’ll need to read the nutrition information carefully when you make selections.
You Might Experience Relief from Irritable Bowel Syndrome
Preliminary research indicates that some people may experience relief from symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome when they follow a gluten-free diet.
Gluten free meals may help by altering the gut biome so it doesn’t react as negatively to foods that may be classified as trigger foods.
The trick here is being careful to eliminate foods by asking questions like “do potatoes have gluten” (no, they don’t) and “is cheese gluten free,” (yes, it is) and “where can I find gluten free rice” (rice is naturally gluten free).
These questions can help you make the right dietary decisions. You’ll see the most success by being strict when it comes to food choices.
You Need a Gluten Free Diet if You Have an Allergy
Obviously, avoiding gluten is vital if you have an allergy. Most people are allergic only to wheat, not rye and barley, though some people are allergic to all three.
Ingesting wheat with an allergy can lead to life compromising symptoms and immune system complications so avoiding it altogether is important to your health.
A wheat free diet means avoiding bread, pasta, crackers, and baked goods unless they are made with a grain other than wheat. Wheat flour therefore is also a major ingredient in many processed foods. Focusing on gluten free foods makes this easier.
In addition, naturally gluten free products include lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy foods. These can be combined with gluten free products such as noodles, bread, and other snacks so you can enjoy safe and healthy meals without any wheat.
A Gluten Free Diet is Ideal if You’re Cutting Carbs
So many foods that contain gluten also contain carbs, which are high in empty calories and aren’t as healthy as choosing complex carbs like brown rice, quinoa, and other whole grains.
By cutting those unhealthy carbs from your diet, you save calories and leave room in your meal plan for other nutritious foods.
However, it’s also important to remember that eliminating entire food groups isn’t usually recommended as it can lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies. If you plan to remove carbs from your diet, be sure you do so under the guidance of a doctor or nutritionist.
There May be Benefits for Other Health Issues
Since some research indicates that other health conditions may respond to a gluten free diet in a positive way. This includes autism, epilepsy, and schizophrenia.
The reason may be due to genetics and the body makeup of individuals with these conditions. However, the research is limited and needs to be studied more in-depth to definitively link these diseases to gluten.
If you suffer from any of them and want to try a gluten free diet, talk to your physician about how to do it right for the best results.
Try It if It Motivates You to Make Healthy Choices
While there are certainly things to think about before going gluten free, it could be just what it takes to motivate you to make healthy choices.
Many people feel virtuous when they eat gluten free so if that helps you make other healthy lifestyle decisions, it could be beneficial.
Maybe following a gluten free diet encourages you to commit to a daily workout and avoid junk food. If that’s the case, go for it. Just remember that simply being gluten free doesn’t make a specific food any better than what else is out there.
Is a Gluten Free Meal Plan Right for You?
While incorporating gluten free products into your meal plan can certainly have some benefits, it’s important to do it the right way.
Pay attention to food labels to be sure that the substitutes that you’re choosing have similar health benefits.
Fiber, iron, and B vitamins are essential to good health so it’s important to choose gluten free foods that provide these nutrients to your body. It’s best to work with a doctor as you make the transition.
Check out our nutrition section for more information on being healthy and living your best life.
- McCarthy, Niall. "The Number Of Americans Going Gluten-Free Has Tripled Since 2009 [Infographic]." Forbes, 17 Jan.2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/niallmccarthy/2017/01/17/the-number-of-americans-going-gluten-free-has-tripled-since-2009-infographic/#4b9cd8bb32f2
- "Celiac Disease." MAYO CLINIC, 16 Sept. 2019, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/celiac-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20352220
- Axe, Josh. "How to Minimize Carbs the Healthy Way." US News, 22 Aug. 2017, https://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/articles/2017-08-22/how-to-minimize-carbs-the-healthy-way
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