Everywhere you look you see labels proclaiming, “Gluten Free!” This can be great news for those with celiac disease or a gluten allergy, but if you are not allergic to gluten, you need to assess your reasons for not eating this protein composite found in wheat, barleys and rye. Gluten-free diets are perfect for those who have sensitivities to wheat products, but if you are not allergic or sensitive you might just miss out on important nutrients and fiber.
In 2008 Oprah Winfrey gave up gluten as part of a “cleanse diet.” The trend not to eat gluten products began. Going gluten free is supposed to boost health and energy, help you lose weight and cope with ADHD, autism, headaches and other medical conditions.
A gluten free diet is a medical staple but only for those with celiac disease. Now if you want to go on a gluten free diet make sure you have a medical reason to be on the celiac/wheat sensitivity diet. The diet is hard to follow, has nutritional drawbacks, and should not be used as a “trend” diet.
What are Gluten Allergies?
Celiac disease is serous and often undetected or misunderstood. It has been published that over 1 percent of the population in America is gluten sensitive and may in fact have celiac disease. This is a disease caused by an immune response to gluten. It can damage the lining of your small intestines and prevent important nutrients from being absorbed by the body.
Symptoms of celiac disease can be intense diarrhea, anemia, pain in your bones, and dermatitis or a skin rash known a herpetiformis. Often, however celiac disease has no symptoms but you feel sluggish, have digestive discomfort and general malaise. The only way to determine if you have celiac disease is to be tested. This includes a blood test that identifies antibodies that cause abnormal immune responses. If your blood test is affirmative generally a biopsy is done to analyze inflammation in the lining of your small intestines.
There are those who do not have celiac disease but who are sensitive to gluten. They may need to avoid gluten products, but if you just want to feel healthy, going gluten free is not the way to do it.
Characteristics of Gluten
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley it is also in whole grain foods including bulgur, farro, kamut, triticate and spelt. Gluten has no nutritional benefits, but the whole grains that have gluten are rich in minerals and vitamins and contain necessary fiber. Whole grain foods as part of your healthy diet help lower heart disease, diabetes and some types of cancer. In 2010 the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that half of all carbohydrates in your diet come from whole grain foods.
Completely eliminating gluten produces when you do not really need to, requires changing your entire diet. You could not eat bread, crackers, conventional pastas, pastry good, breakfast cereals and an entire range of processed foods.
“When you eliminate a whole category of foods you’ve been used to eating, you run the risk of nutritional deficiencies,” (Green, 2005). In 2005 the American Dietetic Association cautioned that gluten-free products have low supplies of B vitamins, zinc and calcium, iron, and fiber plus magnesium. If you are not really allergic to gluten there is no point in eliminating gluten. Gluten-free food alternatives are very expensive and really are not that great for your body.
Choices on a Gluten-Free Diet
If you are gluten sensitive or have celiac disease it is much easier for you to eat healthy diets today than in the past. Those who have celiac disease for longer than 20 years are probably very astounded at the selection of foods. Yet, not all gluten-free foods are healthy. There are those foods that are high in saturated fats and cholesterols. Others may be high in calories but do not have nutritional values. Do also avoid herbal remedies that may claim to heal gluten allergies. There is little evidence to those claims.
Instead of high caloric gluten foods and difficult herbs, eat natural foods. Lean meats plus fish, fruits and vegetables and low far dairy products are safe if you have celiac disease or gluten allergies. Eat quinoa and amaranth as options to grains that contain gluten. If you do have celiac diseases take heart. There is a vaccine for this disease under study and investigation.
Gluten Problems Rising
Rates for celiac disease double about every 20 years, reports state. The theory for this rise is the hygiene hypothesis. If you keep your environment ultra clean, children are not exposed to antigens in the environment while their immune systems are growing. Your stomach and digestive systems have not been taught to deal with antigens and the immune system believes that glutens are “bad.” This creates intolerance to gluten. An interesting observation, celiac disease is rare in developing and less sanitary countries.
If you have severe diarrhea problems, you might want to have a celiac disease test. Do get tested before self-starting on gluten-free diets. If you rule out celiac disease your physician can try other disease diagnoses. If you do not take the celiac test and begin a gluten free diet, your antibodies can decrease and you can cause other health problems.
Benefits of a Gluten Free Diet
There is no evidence that a gluten-free diet will help with migraines, ADHD and Down syndrome, yet there are those who self-diagnosis and put themselves on a gluten-free diets. There is also a misconception that eating gluten free products will help you lose weight. Not so. All studies and medical professionals claim that a gluten-free diet must be done properly.
If you do not eat gluten you may experience deficiencies in vitamin B12, vitamin D, iron, magnesium and fiber. Most gluten products are fortified with essential minerals and vitamins. Gluten free products cannot and are not fortified.
Be very careful when choosing from gluten-free products that are on the market shelves. You will find that they are higher in carbohydrates, sodium, and fats and very low in fiber. Eat healthier breads at home and make sure your bread consumption includes those grains that are high in fiber and protein. If you are concerned, you can make breads with gluten free grains that are certified. Certified gluten free grains will give you the proper supplements of vitamin and minerals that you need to be healthy.