Everybody is going gluten-free these days! Even your favourite supermarket products are bringing out gluten-free varieties. Is going gluten-free simply a fad or an effective solution to a real health risk? Either way, should you hop aboard the gluten-free train?
The most common cause for people to start a gluten-free diet is celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which gluten destroys the lining of the small intestine. Because of this, the body is unable to absorb nutrients. A gluten-free diet is essentially a lifesaver for some people with sensitivity to gluten. The Celiac Disease Foundation cites that 1 percent of the global population has celiac disease.
The typical gluten-free diet is low in fibre, iron, B vitamins, and other essential nutrients. It’s also high in sugar, salt and fat because many gluten-free products are packed with excess sugar and salt. So, if you think you’re going to lose weight by eliminating gluten sources from your diet, reconsider. If you have other health conditions, the last thing you want to do is add nutrient and vitamin deficiency to that.
This, however, does not mean that gluten-free folks not dealing with celiac disease have been unable to benefit from their new diet. Plenty of junk foods and processed foods contain gluten, so cutting those out can certainly have an impact on your weight and overall health. Still, experts say it’s not a guarantee since gluten-free varieties can have just as much or more sugar or salt.
So where do gluten-free people get their nutrients from? Quinoa, sweet potatoes, beans and lentils are great sources of fibre for people with gluten sensitivity. Beef, tuna and chicken can help with iron intake, while vegetables like spinach and asparagus can aid in folate intake.
Another effect of a gluten-free diet is the decrease of micro-biotic diversity. This means the gastrointestinal tract will have less healthy bacteria. Yes, your GI tract needs a diverse population of bacteria since research has shown that a less diverse GI tract is a factor in a number of diseases.
Have you gone gluten-free but continue to feel bad or even worse? Gluten might not be the enemy. If you’re prone to gas and bloating, two common causes are lactose and fructose intolerance. You could be eliminating the wrong offending food. In this case, it’s always best to seek the advice of medical or nutrition professionals so you can pinpoint exactly why you’re having digestive issues.
Going gluten-free if you’re not sensitive to gluten is not necessary. You can reap benefits from such a diet, for sure. However, at the end of the day, nutritional experts recommend that for optimal health and weight, what you need to do is find and maintain the right balance of food groups and quality of food choices.