A gluten free diet is one of the most popular mainstream diets, but it’s much more than just a passing trend. Going gluten free serves many benefits other than just losing weight. In fact, it’s an entire lifestyle adjustment for those with various illnesses and conditions that are affected by gluten.
A gluten free diet entails strictly avoiding a protein called gluten found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley, typically because of chronic intestinal irritation. Choosing to fully eliminate gluten from your diet isn’t as simple as cutting calories or avoiding sweets, and because it is such a drastic change, it isn’t the ideal option for everyone. Here are a few things to know before deciding if a gluten free diet is right for you.
It Helps More Than Just Celiac Disease
Gluten free diets are most famously known for alleviating the side effects of celiac disease, a condition which causes digestive problems in the small intestine due to a hypersensitive reaction to gluten products. It can also cause malabsorption, which means your body is not able to absorb the nutrients needed to function optimally. However, eliminating gluten has actually proven to be beneficial to those with a number of non-celiac autoimmune disorders such as type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease and rheumatoid arthritis.
Chronic inflammation is a common thread amongst just about every autoimmune disorder. Factor in gluten – which is inflammatory by nature – and sufferers are at a higher risk of bloating, diarrhea, leaky gut and unbalanced levels of good and bad bacteria in the intestines.If you’ve tested negative for celiac disease but still suffer from digestive irritation after consuming gluten products, ask your doctor about eliminating gluten for a trial period. If your symptoms disappear then reappear after reintroduction, an intolerance to gluten is the most likely culprit.
You Will Need to Read Your Labels Carefully
Because gluten free diets have become so popular, it is becoming more common to see “gluten free” labels on products in the supermarket. However, just because something does not contain gluten does not mean it is necessarily good for those with a gluten sensitivity. Many foods that are engineered to be gluten free are processed with ingredients such as oils, additives and refined/GMO sugars that can actually make inflammation in the gut worse. On top of that, processed gluten free foods often contain substitutes like rice flour, tapioca, corn and potato starch that pack on carbs without any nutritional benefits.
When eliminating gluten from your diet, look for foods that are naturally gluten free. Ingredients such as quinoa, almond meal, buckwheat, brown rice, beans and lentils will allow you to avoid gluten while providing the proteins, vitamins and minerals your body needs to feel great and stay healthy.
Fiber is More Important Than Ever
A fiber-rich diet is important to those with gluten-related intestinal distress for many reasons. Fibrous foods help tame bloating, soothe constipation and regulate gut bacteria, among other benefits. A healthy diet should contain a daily recommended intake of 25 to 38 grams per day, with women requiring less and men requiring more. For those adhering to a strict gluten free diet, avoiding fibrous foods such as wheat and grain products could bring your daily intake down to 10 grams per day or lower.
Luckily, fiber can be found naturally in many gluten free foods. Black beans, pinto beans and kidney beans contain a whopping 20 grams of fiber per cup. Mix them in with a leafy green salad containing spinach, kale or collard greens, and you’ll be adding another 5.5 grams per cup. If you’re looking for a fiber source that satisfies your sweet tooth, opt for shredded coconut (7 grams/cup), raspberries, blueberries and currants (8 grams/cup).
It Comes With Bonus Benefits
The most notable benefit to choosing a gluten free diet is increased digestive health. However, there are additional perks that come along with the lifestyle change. Consuming more fruits and vegetables will provide your body with a boost of antioxidants to ward off illnesses and build up your immune system. Eating fewer processed foods will help you shed weight while providing you with a boost of energy. Avoiding the naturally inflammatory properties of gluten will reduce joint pain and arthritis. Even if you do not suffer from gluten sensitivity, it could be worth discussing the potential benefits with your doctor if you are looking to make an overall healthy lifestyle change.
Transitioning to a Gluten Free Diet
Going gluten free can be a massive adjustment, not only in your diet but in your lifestyle. If you’re curious about how removing gluten from your diet can affect your overall health, your best option is to start a conversation with a functional medicine doctor. Discuss your concerns and be candid with your health history so your doctor can work with you to create a gluten free diet plan best fit for your needs.
Dr. Lorraine Maita is a recognized and award-winning holistic, functional, and anti-aging physician and author. She transforms people’s lives by getting to the root cause of illness using the best of science and nature. Her approach is personalized, precision medicine where you are treated as the unique individual you are. If you’re ready to start your journey to a healthier, happier life, schedule your visit today!