With people being health-conscious, the gluten-free diet is gaining momentum. And with the demand, the number of gluten-free products and gluten-free menus has built our grocery list lately.
But what exactly is a gluten-free diet and who needs it?
In this article, we will understand the basics of a Gluten-free diet, its benefits, foods to be avoided and included, and whether it helps in weight loss.
Gluten diet 101
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). It comprises two proteins, namely Gliadin and Glutenin. With its name from the Latin word ‘Glue’ as it gives the flour a sticky consistency, Gluten is responsible for the elastic property of the dough and the chewiness of foods made from wheat flour like bread and pasta.
And the gluten-free diet, as the name suggests, is simple–avoid gluten and gluten-containing foods. People with disease conditions such as wheat allergy, gluten intolerance, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and celiac disease are allergic to this protein. As a result, doctors and nutritionists recommend them to follow a gluten-free diet.
Symptoms of gluten allergies/sensitivity–
- Constipation and diarrhea
- Upset stomach
On that note, you must keep in mind that you must consult your doctor if you want to start a gluten-free diet.
But do you know what food contains gluten and what does not?
Here is a list of food that contains gluten–
- Bread (rolls, bun bagel, biscuits, etc.)
- Baked foods like cake, cookies, doughnuts
- Pasta (spaghetti, macaroni, etc.)
- Chips and crackers
Food that is gluten-free includes–
- Whole grains (quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, millets)
- Fruits and vegetables
- Coconut flour
- Cassava flour
Benefits of a gluten-free diet
Here are some of the health benefits of a gluten-free diet–
Aids to better digestion: If you suffer from irregular bowel movements and stomach problems, cutting down gluten can help. If the patient has celiac disease, a gluten-free diet can reduce symptoms of stomach upset, abdominal cramps, constipation, and bloating. It is also a boon for people with Crohn’s disease or gluten sensitivity.
Increases energy levels- Chronic fatigue is a common symptom seen in patients with gluten sensitivity. Consumption of gluten can damage the intestinal tract, resulting in the inability to absorb many nutrients, including iron and common b vitamins. When these specific energy-producing nutrients are not absorbed properly, it can lead to anemia, which causes exertion intolerance and fatigue. Switching to a gluten-free diet allows your intestines an opportunity to heal, which will improve nutrient absorption and therefore improve your energy levels.
Headaches –Gluten can trigger migraine headaches in individuals with a gluten sensitivity or gluten allergy. We believe that gluten causes systemic inflammation, which can lead to headaches and migraines. If you often have headaches, try eliminating gluten from your diet for four to six weeks to see if gluten causes your headaches. If the number of headaches declines, it can indicate food sensitivity.
Prevent thyroid-induced diseases– At Jeevam health, we believe that certain food such as gluten can trigger your body to produce an immune response which can cause hypothyroidism. So, switching to a gluten-free diet is a safer alternative.
Gluten-free diet and Hypothyroidism
Hypothyroidism is not a disease, it’s a cumulative of many diseases. You never know what might trigger a response and the next minute, your thyroid glands can stop functioning properly. So, it’s important to find the root cause; as, without it, you won’t be able to treat hypothyroidism.
And food plays a vital role in your health. Certain foods can help you rejuvenate and nourish your body. While there are other foods that can trigger your immune system to make an allergic response. Such triggers include gluten too.
So, when you reach out to a functional medicine doctor, the doctor might ask you to cut down gluten-rich foods such as wheat from your diet. Autoimmunity caused by a leaky gut is one of the most common causes of Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Our doctors state that 75% of the cases are sensitive to gluten.
Also, studies claim that, if someone is diagnosed with hypothyroidism, you are most likely to develop celiac disease and vice versa.
And that is why a thyroid expert rules out the potential allergens to be on the safe side. Commonly known as an elimination diet, the doctors will curate a personalized meal plan that suits your body and your disease condition.
Should normal people switch to a gluten-free diet?
According to studies, the nutritional quality of commercially prepared gluten-free foods is lower in protein than their conventional counterparts.
Another study in the United States of America states the gluten-free food industry has grown from 2013-to 2015, with almost $12 billion in sales in 2015.
And what is more interesting is that the biggest purchasers of gluten-free products are people who do not have celiac disease just because they think gluten-free is a healthy option for digestive health.
Having enough whole grains in your diet is essential, especially if you are at risk of heart disease or diabetes. Whole grains can lower cholesterol levels and even help regulate your blood sugar. However, some gluten-free foods are also sources of essential vitamins and minerals such as B vitamins, iron, and magnesium.
There is little evidence that a gluten-free diet is healthy for people without celiac diseases. But it can still be made a balanced diet by choosing the right gluten-free foods and whether your other food choices are healthy.
It is also important not to replace gluten-containing foods with more red meat, full-fat dairy, starchy vegetables, sweets, and fats. It can lead to a higher cholesterol intake, saturated fat, sodium, and unwanted calories.
Now let’s move to another most searched question on the internet!
Can gluten-free diets help in weight loss?
According to the American Dietetic Association, the answer is straightforward. It’s a big NO. According to their report, a gluten-free diet is a savior for patients with celiac disease, but beyond that, there are no benefits: definitely not in weight loss.
But, some studies found that people following a gluten-free diet often lose weight because they cut out a lot of processed foods and refined carbohydrates that contain gluten. However, it is important to watch your portion sizes and eat plenty of whole foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, because you could miss out on nutritious whole grains, fibers, and micronutrients.
The final verdict
While following any diet, you should know that not every diet will suit you. There is no one-size-fits-all diet. People complain they face severe fatigue and weakness when starting a gluten-free diet. So, it’s better to talk to a nutritionist or a doctor if you want to follow a certain diet.
We, at Jeevam health, offer personalized meal plans customized according to your requirements and disease condition. Do reach out to us!