Gluten free diets have come into prominence in the recent years, spurred on by celebrity testimonials and various health benefit claims. But what’s behind all the hype?
What exactly is a gluten-free diet? What are the pros and cons? Is it right for you and, if so, how can you get started? The answers are rather simple, after a bit of research. Read on here to find out more.
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Before we dive in deep into the topic, here is an overview of what this article will be about:
What Is A Gluten Free Diet?
Just as it sounds, a gluten free diet is one that does not contain gluten. Gluten is a combination of proteins that are often found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. This means that any bread, beer or other food that contains these grains (and a few others) cannot be consumed while on the diet.
Not all grains and starches have gluten. Foods such as rice, corn, buckwheat, potatoes and quinoa do not contain gluten. What that means is that any flours or breads made with them can be eaten by those on a gluten free diet. Oats do not contain gluten but, because they are often handled by processing plants where wheat is processed, people on gluten free diets avoid them due to possible cross-contamination.
Benefits Of A Gluten Free Diet
Gluten free diets started as a recommended diet to relieve the symptoms of Celiac Disease. When people with Celiac Disease eat gluten, white blood cells attack the small intestine. This damages the nutrient-absorbing tissues, called villi. Without these tissues, the body cannot absorb nutrients from food no matter how much food they eat or its nutritional quality. It is vitally important that Celiacs stick to gluten-free diets.
Celiac Disease is not rare but it is under-diagnosed. It is believed that as many as 83 percent of the population probably has this disease and does not know it.
People with wheat allergies also benefit from a gluten free diet. As with any allergy, wheat allergies can cause swelling, redness and rash if those with the allergy come into contact with their allergen.
A third set of people who benefit from a gluten free diet simply have a mild reaction to gluten and wheat products. Symptoms may include bloating, intestinal distress and abdominal pain when gluten is consumed. These people report that they are much happier and healthier when they cut gluten from their diet.
So, if you have Celiac Disease, a wheat allergy or suffer from gastrointestinal problems when you eat bread or other gluten containing foods, then a gluten-free diet may be of great benefit to you.
Cons Of A Gluten Free Diet
Like most diets, a gluten free diet is challenging to transition into. Your body will start to crave foods high in carbohydrates, many of which contain gluten. Bread, crackers, pastries … they all contain gluten. With persistence and discipline, a gluten free diet will become a natural way of life.
Tip: become a strict label-reader. Gluten can be hidden in some foods [even candies, sauces, processed lunch meats, snack food and salad dressings] and it is important that you know what is in each item before you consume it. When you find a package marked as gluten-free, the FDA requires that it has less than 20 parts per million of gluten. Also, remember that food marked “wheat free” still could have gluten in it.
How to get started on a Gluten Free Diet as a newbie.
If you have been diagnosed with Celiac Disease or a wheat allergy, then it is time for you to go “cold turkey” and say good-bye to gluten right away.
Avoid any foods that contain grains such as bread, beer, cakes, pies and cereals. Also be wary of any processed foods or foods that come in sealed packages or cans. Thought they may not contain grains, they may have preservatives or seasonings that contain gluten. Always look for the “gluten-free” label.
Remember that not all grains contain gluten. Rice, cornmeal, flax and arrowroot flours do not contain gluten. When you are shopping, look for breads made with gluten free flours. They can also be ordered online.
If you are not suffering with a serious medical need for a gluten free diet, you may prefer to slowly restrict your gluten consumption. Ease into it!