If you’ve ever searched the web for a recipe, then you’ve most likely come across a meal that’s been tailored to a gluten-free diet. In fact, just roaming an aisle or two at the grocery store will certainly expose you to gluten-free products and how incredibly rampant they’ve become.
So what’s all the hype about the gluten-free diet and what does this diet actually entail?
Gluten-Free Diet Plan
The gluten-free diet has been around for a long time, long before it became a popular search term or grocery store norm. Gluten, a group of proteins found in wheat, spelt, rye, and barley, is a dietary component that not every individual can comfortably digest.
For those that are completely intolerant to gluten, such as a person suffering from celiac disease, gluten must be avoided at all costs. These individuals often suffer from adverse health effects and severe symptoms as a reaction to gluten consumption.
For others, eating food with gluten may not cause life-threatening symptoms but may make the person feel very uncomfortable or suffer from improper digestion as a result. These individuals are usually classified as gluten-sensitive.
To diagnose whether an individual suffers from celiac disease or is just gluten-sensitive, a doctor may administer a blood test to check for antibodies that don’t interact well with gluten. He or she may also request a biopsy of the small intestine to check for damage.
In any case, the doctor will most likely advise the patient to completely avoid gluten consumption and start a gluten-free diet plan in an effort to see if symptoms are relieved as a result.
Someone on a gluten-free diet typically avoids all foods containing any type of gluten content. It may be surprising to learn just how many foods contain gluten. Some of the most commonly eaten foods that contain gluten include:
- Baked goods
- Snack foods
Even foods like chicken broth, for example, can contain gluten. The best way to avoid gluten is to eat single-ingredient foods, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, nuts, and healthy fats. Some plant-based diet suggestions can be especially beneficial when looking for gluten-free foods to fill your meals with.
Some naturally gluten-free foods are:
- Plain dairy products
- Grains (i.e. quinoa, rice, tapioca, oats – although, be sure that the oats were not processed in a facility that’s come in contact with gluten products)
- Fruits and veggies
- Nuts and seeds
Fortunately, because the gluten-free diet has become so widespread, many food manufacturers are producing gluten-free versions of their products. Take a look in the pasta aisle and you’re sure to find gluten-free pasta. Better yet, if you enjoy eating bread, take comfort in the fact that you’ll probably be able to find a nice loaf of gluten-free bread in your grocery store too.
Gluten-Free Diet Benefits
Many people try a gluten-free diet even if they are not suffering from severe symptoms or life-threatening effects, such as in the case of those with celiac disease. This is because a gluten-free diet can be beneficial in other ways as well.
Some of the gluten-free diet benefits include:
Some people have success losing weight on a gluten-free diet. This is because a gluten-free diet emphasizes eating single-ingredient foods like fresh fruits, veggies, and lean meat, as well as eliminating junk food. As a result, people tend to eat much healthier on a gluten-free diet than they did before. Note, however, that if you’re simply replacing packaged food items with gluten-free versions, such as gluten-free cakes and chips, weight loss effects may not be experienced.
Gluten can cause symptoms such as bloating, gas, diarrhea, and/or constipation in some individuals. In studies where individuals have tried a gluten-free diet, many have reported improved symptoms such as reduced stomach aches and less frequent occurrences of symptoms like diarrhea or constipation.
While inflammation in itself is not a bad thing, as it’s a natural way of your body treating and healing an infection, chronic inflammation, on the other hand, can be damaging. Those suffering from celiac disease often deal with chronic inflammation that damages the lining of the intestines. Following a gluten-free diet can reduce the inflammation and the damage left on the gut.
Boosts Energy Levels
Individuals who suffer from celiac disease often complain about feeling fatigued and sluggish. This can be a result of nutritional deficiencies, such as an iron deficiency, become of damage to the gut and its resulting poor absorbency capability. Those who have gone on a gluten-free diet and have been studied in regards to the diet’s effects on energy levels have reported significantly lower levels of fatigue and greater energy after going on the diet.
Gluten-Free Diet Side Effects
While a gluten-free diet can offer a range of benefits, particularly those suffering from celiac disease, it might not suit every individual. In regards to health effects, a gluten-free diet can pose the risk of nutritional deficiencies.
Many wheat-based products, such as fortified bread, offer a range of vitamins and dietary needs (i.e. fiber) which is important for the body. By avoiding these foods, individuals on a gluten-free diet are also putting themselves at risk of potentially becoming deficient in these nutrients and suffering from digestive issues like constipation, which relies on fiber intake to be avoided.
There are also negative financial consequences to following a gluten-free diet. If an individual plans on substituting many of their go-to foods with gluten-free versions, he or she will likely need to spend more on those foods. Gluten-free products tend to cost more than their non-compliant counterparts.
There are also social consequences to going gluten-free. Anyone following a gluten-free diet should be prepared to face some challenges when ordering food at a restaurant or attending social gatherings with food. While the gluten-free diet is a popular diet, there are still many people and businesses who do not adhere to a gluten-free diet or offer gluten-free options on their menus.
Deciding Whether the Gluten-Free Diet Is Right for You
At the end of the day, a gluten-free diet should be carefully examined with both its benefits and potential side effects in mind. It’s best to consult your doctor first and explain any health concerns or symptoms you may be suffering from and get his or her opinion on whether a gluten-free diet is right for you.
If you do decide to follow a gluten-free diet, make sure to check back here for some of our favorite gluten-free recipes to help you follow the diet while still enjoying the foods you love.