Going gluten free may seem like just a fad, but it benefits health for many people, even without a diagnosis of celiac disease.
While not every single person needs to go gluten free to be healthy, for many, gluten causes symptoms that aren’t obviously related. Reactions vary and are often delayed. When a person reacts to gluten, but doesn’t have celiac disease or a wheat allergy, it’s called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. (1)
The list of symptoms caused by gluten is long. They include, but aren’t limited to: bloating, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, headaches, fatigue, skin problems, depression, anxiety, joint and muscle pain, dark circles under eyes, bloodshot eyes, runny nose and hay fever.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a mixture of proteins. It’s in wheat, rye and barley. Oats contain avenin, a protein similar to gluten, which may or may not cause problems, depending on the individual. (2)
In bread making, gluten holds the bread together, helps bread rise by trapping air bubbles and gives bread it’s unique texture. Traditionally, many breads were made using the process of fermentation (sourdough) which lowers the gluten content. Some people who have a problem with gluten can tolerate sourdough bread. (3)
Why is gluten a problem?
One of the biggest reasons gluten is a problem is because it damages the lining of the intestines. (4) This can contribute to allergies, inflammation and auto immune diseases, among other things.
Gluten free doesn’t always equal healthy.
Just because a package says gluten free doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Many gluten free foods contain heavily refined ingredients that have lost nutrients during processing. It’s important to read ingredient labels. If the list is long and there are things you don’t recognize as food, it’s probably not a healthy choice.
Can a gluten free diet be healthy?
There are many other foods that provide the nutrients found in wheat, barley, and rye. Eating a wide variety of other whole foods will provide the nutrients your body requires. Here’s a list and more information of the most nutrient dense options.
If you replace the servings of glutenous grains you were eating with a variety of nutrient dense whole foods, instead of nutrient void processed foods, your diet will probably be healthier than it was with glutenous grains.
Like many nutrition related topics, the answer to the question of if it's best to avoid gluten or not isn't black and white. It depends on the individual. Factors to consider include genetics, current and past health, symptoms, lifestyle and more. It If you'd like help determining if going gluten free is best for you, I'd love to work with you and help you do it! Choose which service is best for you and schedule online here.
1. Non coeliac gluten sensitivity – A new disease with gluten intolerance Czaja-Bulsa, Grażyna Clinical Nutrition , Volume 34 , Issue 2 , 189 - 194
3. Safety for Patients With Celiac Disease of Baked Goods Made of Wheat Flour Hydrolyzed During Food Processing Greco, Luigi et al. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology , Volume 9 , Issue 1 , 24 - 29