Is Gluten-free right for you and your loved ones?
Gluten-free has become a hot-button topic. There are those who roll their eyes when they hear someone is gluten-free. And then there is the look of great concern thinking that the person requesting the gluten-free menu must have celiac or some other horrible condition that is preventing them from partaking in the “gluey” goodness of bread!
For our family it is personal we all have different variations of sensitivity. My husband’s reactions to gluten are mild, but knows he doesn’t feel as great when he has too many bready foods. My daughter receives tremendous gastrointestinal distress. Me, due to Hashimoto’s, there is a myriad of reasons why I avoid it.
What Is Gluten and why does it matter?
Before discussing whether or not a gluten-free diet is right for you, it’s important to understand what is gluten and what is gluten-free. Gluten is made up of two proteins found in the husk of grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye. It is responsible for giving food elasticity and providing a chewy texture. The small intestine surface of your gut is covered with villi – tiny, finger-like projections that act as gatekeepers to the rest of the body. These gatekeepers reject gluten to various degrees in people differently. This may be why some people are sensitive vs intolerant. This rejection has an effect on the absorption rate of many of the nutrients that are key to our well-being, including calcium, vitamin A and Iron.
Although gluten sensitivities were once considered rare, it is now estimated that gluten-related disorders could affect 10% of Americans.
Many people unknowingly suffer from a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, which can cause a slew of negative side effects:
- Abdominal pain, IBS, constipation, or diarrhea
- Brain Fog- difficulty concentrating
- Frequent Headaches
- Mood changes such as depression or anxiety
- Ongoing fatigue
- Muscle and joint pain, numbness in the arms and feet
- Eczema, skin rashes, dermatitis
- Nutrient deficiencies which could lead to learning disabilities
A person with celiac disease has an autoimmune condition. When people with celiac disease eat foods with gluten, it triggers an immune response that causes damage to the lining of the small intestine. This can cause malabsorption of nutrients, anemia, osteoporosis, and other medical complications. Frequent symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhea, malnutrition, skin rashes and fatigue.
Cutting gluten out of your diet can be a challenge
Gluten byproducts are widespread throughout the food supply. For example, due to cross-contamination, many foods — such as oats — do contain a small amount of gluten, which can cause serious problems for those with a sensitivity or intolerance.
Gluten is not just in bread, also often added to other foods to modify the stability and structure of products, such as salad dressings, condiments, and deli meats. It is important if you are diagnosed or suspect you may have a strong intolerance to gluten that you learn to read the labels on food.
However, for those who are sensitive to gluten, following a gluten-free diet benefits many aspects of health. A few benefits one may reap by limiting gluten are:
- Amps up fat burning
- Provide a burst of extra energy
- Reduces inflammation
- Eases digestive symptoms like gas, bloating or diarrhea and IBS
For others, gluten-free could be the key to reducing behavioral issues and improving symptoms of autism. Research has continued to unearth many potential benefits the least of which is supporting an anti-inflammatory diet.
Not sure if gluten affects you?
Try 3 weeks of eliminating gluten to see if you experience less:
- Gut distress (gas, bloating, diarrhea, etc)
- Mental fog
- Physical fatigue
Some benefits you could experience:
- Greater focus
- Improved health conditions
- Better sleep
- Natural weight loss
How can a person go gluten-free without feeling overwhelmed? Get an easy start by remembering to stick to a simple list of whole foods:
- Olive oil
- Sea salt
It’s when we want to figure out the “cheats” that we complicate it. Take a look at this comprehensive list from Healthline.com for an in-depth list of what to avoid and what to try. As a bonus, I found this great recipe from Dr. Axe with millet, mushrooms, and kale. Perfect for that sticky gooey craving without the gluten.
Visit with your trusted health practitioner or nutritionist to determine if this is right for you. And trust your gut. Your gut knows if you should or shouldn’t be gluten-free.
For our family, it was a must. Even my husband, who loves his sticky bready foods, sees the benefits of gluten-free.