Gluten-free foods are becoming increasingly popular and for good reason. Eliminating gluten can help with a variety of health issues, including digestive problems and autoimmune disorders like celiac disease.
But what about those who don’t have any medical conditions that require them to avoid gluten? Can cutting out this protein benefit everyone?
The answer is yes. This article discusses the benefits of gluten-free diets. But first, let’s talk about what a gluten-free diet is and why gluten is so bad for some people.
What Is a Gluten-Free Diet?
A gluten-free diet is a diet that excludes foods containing gluten, a protein composite found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye.
Gluten is what gives bread its chewiness and prevents it from crumbling. It also causes health problems for people with celiac disease (an autoimmune disorder) or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
When people with celiac disease eat foods containing gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging their small intestines. This can cause diarrhea, weight loss, and other symptoms, depending on how much of the intestine is affected.
People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity experience symptoms similar to those of celiac disease but with no damage to the small intestine. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity isn’t as well understood as celiac disease, and its exact cause isn’t known.
Benefits of Gluten-Free Diets
1. Helps With Weight Loss
A gluten-free diet helps you lose or maintain weight because it removes high-calorie foods from your diet. Manufacturers make gluten-free bread and pasta with low-carb ingredients like rice flour, which is more helpful for weight loss than regular bread made from wheat flour.
2. Reduces Inflammation
One of the most common side effects of eating foods containing gluten is inflammation throughout your body. Inflammation triggers your body to produce excess mucus, which can lead to sinus problems such as sneezing and congestion.
According to studies, people who are on a gluten-free diet have less inflammation in the body compared to those who eat gluten regularly.
3. Improves Digestion
Gluten can cause digestive problems like diarrhea, bloating, and stomach pain if you’re sensitive to it. You can relieve these symptoms by cutting out gluten from your diet or at least avoiding foods that contain large amounts of it.
4. May Help Prevent Heart Disease
Another benefit of gluten-free diets is that they’re good for your heart health.
Gluten-containing foods often contain high levels of saturated fats that can lead to heart disease if consumed too often or in large quantities. Gluten-free foods, on the other hand, are low in saturated fats because they tend to contain more vegetables and fruits.
5. Improves Sleep
If you have trouble sleeping or wake up feeling tired during the day, cutting out gluten may help improve your sleep quality. Gluten contains amylase inhibitors that can cause digestive issues that lead to insomnia.
SEE: If Ruffles Are Gluten-Free
6. Helps Improve Rheumatoid Arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its joints, causing pain that can make everyday activities difficult or impossible.
Gluten contains gliadin, which increases intestinal permeability and allows toxins into the bloodstream. These toxins can then attack other organs like joints and kidneys, worsening the symptoms of RA. By following a gluten-free diet, people with RA can see some improvements in their condition.
7. Improves Skin Health
Many people who go gluten-free notice improvements in their skin after just a few weeks on their new diet plan. The diet also reduces inflammation throughout the body, which can help improve skin conditions such as acne and eczema.
8. Increases Energy Levels
Many people who eliminate gluten from their diets report an increase in energy levels and general well-being. This is because gluten can disrupt the production of serotonin (a chemical messenger in your brain) and cause fatigue and depression.
If you have experienced these symptoms after eating bread or other wheat products, it might be a good idea to try going gluten-free for at least two weeks to see if it makes a difference for you.
9. Helps Control Diabetes
If you have type 1 diabetes or type 2 diabetes, going on a gluten-free diet may lower your blood sugar levels. Research has shown that many people with diabetes experience significant improvements in their blood sugar levels after eliminating gluten from their diets.
10. Reduces Risk for Cancer
Celiac disease has been linked to an increased risk for certain cancers, including lymphoma and small bowel cancer. The only current treatment for celiac disease is adherence to a strict gluten-free diet.
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Side Effects of Gluten-Free Diet
If you are following or want to follow a gluten-free diet, you should know the potential side effects and how to avoid them. Here are some common gluten-free diet side effects:
The most common side effect of a strict gluten-free diet is nutritional deficiencies. Because you’ll be eliminating most grains from your diet, make sure you’re getting enough fiber (from vegetables), iron (from legumes), calcium (from dairy), and vitamins (from eggs).
Some people experience headaches after switching to a gluten-free diet. This is especially true if they’re not used to eating so many vegetables every day. If this happens often enough, talk to your doctor about switching up your diet.
Many people experience increased gas and bloating after going gluten-free. If this happens to you, try eating smaller portions throughout the day instead of larger ones at once.
Another common side effect is fatigue. People who eliminate all gluten from their diets often experience fatigue because they’re not getting enough calories. Make sure you’re eating enough calories daily by choosing calorie-dense foods like nuts and seeds.
Some people feel nauseous when they first go gluten-free because their bodies are detoxifying from all the harmful chemicals in regular foods. This can last anywhere from two weeks to several months before improvements are noticed.
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Tips for Following a Gluten-Free Diet
Read labels carefully
If you’re following a gluten-free diet, it’s important to make sure that all the food you eat is safe for you to eat. This means checking labels on food packaging carefully before buying it.
Avoid processed foods
Avoid processed foods whenever possible, as they usually contain ingredients with hidden sources of gluten. Try making your meals from scratch using fresh ingredients so that you know exactly what’s going into your meals (and what isn’t).
Eat balanced and nutritious meals
Make sure that your meals are balanced and nutritious, even if they don’t contain any gluten. If you’re eating a lot of junk food because “it’s not gluten,” you may want to reconsider whether or not it’s worth it in the long run.
Don’t cut out bread and pasta
Many people assume that going gluten-free means giving up bread and pasta — but that’s not true. Gluten-free bread and pasta are available at most grocery stores and health food stores.
When shopping for these products, be sure they don’t contain any added sugars or preservatives (like high fructose corn syrup), which can compromise their nutritional value and make them less healthy choices overall.
SEE: See the Unique Differences Between Gluten-Free and Wheat-Free
Avoid cross-contamination by preparing gluten-free food separately from others. Wash utensils between uses and avoid using any unwashed utensil that has been used for gluten-containing meals.
Try to keep track of how well your diet works over time. If a gluten-free meal isn’t working out as well as expected, take note and try something different next time.
SEE: List of Foods That Are Naturally Gluten-Free
Is gluten a protein?
Yes, it is. Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat, barley, and rye that gives elasticity to doughs used in baking. It’s also what gives bread its chewy texture.
Is celiac disease an autoimmune disease?
Yes, it is. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing nutrients from food.
If you have celiac disease, eating foods with gluten can lead to gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, bloating, and abdominal pain. Some people with celiac disease can also develop intestinal lymphoma due to damage over time.
SEE: Naturally Gluten-Free Foods You Can Enjoy
What should you do if you think you’re sensitive to gluten?
See a doctor. If you suspect you might be sensitive to gluten, talk to your doctor about how to go about testing for it. There are tests available to help identify whether you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).
Gluten-free diets have many benefits including reducing the risk of heart disease, reducing inflammation, and boosting energy levels. They’re also known to boost energy levels and improve skin conditions like acne and eczema.
If you’re considering starting a gluten-free diet, talk with your doctor about how to go about it.
Thanks for reading.
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