Although it may seem like gluten free is a fad diet at the moment, there are many benefits as well as risks for maintaining a gluten free lifestyle, but before we get into all of that let’s start with what going gluten free means.
Gluten is a natural protein that occurs in wheat, barley, and rye flours. Think about pizza dough being made and how it is able to be stretched and tossed. This is what gluten is; the “gluey” stuff that gives any dough when kneaded that stretchy substance.
So now that you understand what gluten is, let’s talk about the benefits of being gluten free. Many people have no choice but to be gluten free as they have either an allergy to wheat, or they have what’s known as Celiac Disease which is severe gluten intolerance where if left untreated can lead to the intestine destroying itself and premature death. Other people may suffer from gluten sensitivities where products that contain gluten leave them feeling tired, achy, bloated or with a decreased energy level.
There have been many correlations between gluten and other disorders as well. As a Fibromyalgia sufferer, I can tell you that going gluten free was one of the best choices I have ever made in my life. I have reduced my flares by at least 70%; and I am not alone. I know countless other people who suffer from auto-immune disorders such as Lupus that have also benefited from going gluten free. Gluten intolerance is also possibly associated with many other conditions such as migraines and Schizophrenia; not to mention it has been named an attributing factor to some stomach conditions like Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and Ulcerated Colitis. Going gluten free in some studies has also been linked to reducing the risk of cancer in those labeled with intestinal disorders.
Though there are obvious benefits for many people with different conditions to go gluten free, a gluten free lifestyle is not for everyone. Many people do not realize that going gluten free also means cutting out heart healthy grains from their diets as well as necessary fiber. In order to combat your lack of fiber from grains you will have to consume 4-5 servings a day of fruits and vegetables, something most people miss when they begin a gluten free lifestyle.
According to Peter HR Green, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, “A gluten free diet is not necessarily a healthy diet. It lacks fiber and, in the case of prepared gluten-free food, it’s often more rich in fat and cholesterol. There are people whose symptoms fatigue and brain fog, for example; get better on a gluten-free diet, but we don’t know why that is. The mechanism is unclear.”
Also keep in mind that though you may not be consuming refined carbohydrates, you will be consuming more starches as products that do not contain gluten are generally higher in starch. Examples of carbohydrates that do not contain gluten are foods such as potatoes, rice, whole oats, rice pasta and corn. This can cause you to gain weight; rather than lose it, as well as attribute to obesity which can lead to cardiovascular problems and diabetes.
If you do discover that gluten free is the way to go for you, remember to read labels since gluten can hide in many unsuspecting places like jams, jellies, condiments and yogurt. When it comes to certain lifestyles, it is always better to speak with your doctor or consult the advice of your medical care professional to determine which course of action is right for you.