Who should you go gluten-free?
∙ Celiac disease sufferers
Gluten is a kind of protein that is found in wheat, barley, and rye and it helps bread and pasta retain their shape. Going gluten-free is quite a trend nowadays with celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah Winfrey swearing by it.
Now, there are some who are not able to digest gluten at all and suffer from Celiac Disease. In case of such people, gluten causes an immune response that harms the lining of the small intestine. They may experience bloating, cramping or skin rashes.
This condition can impede nutrient absorption from food, leading to a host of symptoms apart from causing osteoporosis, infertility, nerve damage, seizures etc. Going gluten-free is the only option such people have as it gives them a lot of relief.
∙ Gluten Sensitivity
Though there is a lot more awareness about Celiac Disease, still the number of sufferers is extremely low. There is, however, a condition related to Celiac Disease called gluten sensitivity or non-celiac gluten sensitivity that causes symptoms similar to those of Celiac Disease, although minus the extreme intestinal damage.
However, the sufferers do experience headaches, bloating, fatigue, or diarrhea after consuming foods containing gluten. Gluten Sensitivity is more common than Celiac Disease and for people suffering from it, going gluten-free is a good option as it brings them a lot of relief.
Why people go gluten-free without celiac disease
As per the authors of the NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey) report, the following could be reasons why an increasing number of people are going for a gluten-free diet:
• There is a growing public perception that a gluten-free diet is healthier and may aid nonspecific gastrointestinal activities.
• Gluten-free products are widely available.
• A wide number of people who have been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity experienced that their gastrointestinal health improved after they let go of gluten.
Benefits of a gluten-free diet
Those suffering from celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity aside, others too have benefited by adopting a gluten-free diet:
• Taking a gluten-free diet also aids those suffering from a chronic gastrointestinal disorder called Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). A low FODMAP (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols) diet is often helpful for such people. This includes a gluten-free diet too.
• Going gluten-free also works wonders for anyone afflicted with Crohn’s disease as well as lupus. In their case, gluten may cause an increased risk of joints inflammation as well as rheumatoid arthritis and fibromyalgia. The advantages of a gluten-free diet include a reduction in some of these symptoms and a much healthier life.
• A gluten-free diet can offer you a lot of health benefits such as improved cholesterol levels, better digestive health, and increased energy levels, especially if you have been troubled by gluten intolerance.
• Adopting a gluten-free diet, cutting down on carbohydrates, eating more vegetables and fruits, and adopting a healthier lifestyle can greatly help people lose weight.
Gluten-free foods to choose from
When you decide to go gluten-free, rather than picking up processed gluten–free foods from the nearby store aisle, try to incorporate naturally gluten-free eatables in your diet that are good for your health.
There are plenty of options to choose from such as brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, wild rice, amaranth, sorghum, millet, corn (polenta), and teff.
As per Mayo Clinic, there are several naturally gluten-free items including:
• Beans, seeds, and unprocessed nuts
• Fresh meat, poultry, and fish (not marinated, breaded, or batter-coated as it might contain gluten in the form of batter flour etc.)
• Fresh eggs
• Fruits and vegetables
• Most dairy products
You could also go for healthy snacks made from natural ingredients such as goji berries, dates, chia seeds, almonds etc. Gluten-free and free of artificial sweeteners, Magu Balls are a great snacking option, especially if you are following a gluten- free diet.
As per Mayo Clinic’s recommendation, avoid all foods and drinks that contain barley, rye, and wheat. As wheat flour has many names, so, check the labels carefully.
Adverse effects of going gluten-free?
Just like their conventional counterparts, most of the processed gluten-free food products rend to be less nutritious and rich in calories. Overindulging in these would lead to weight gain. Try to go for naturally gluten-free produce such as fruits, veggies and nuts. Regrettably, a lot of gluten-free breads plus other baked goods are not a great source of fiber. Eating too little fiber is a major side-effect of going gluten-free.
How to overcome the adverse effects of a gluten-free diet
A few gluten-free bread brands are now making breads with whole grains, thereby increasing the fiber content. However, getting sufficient roughage in a gluten-free diet is still a challenge, leading to constipation in some gluten-free diet followers as they don’t get enough fiber.
To overcome this situation, you can try adding more fiber to your diet. For example, you can look for whole-grain gluten-free breads and try to add more beans, legumes, fresh fruits, and vegetables to your diet. You can also carry nuts and seeds as they make for a great high-fiber, gluten-free snack that you can have on-the-go.