Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It is commonly used in foods such as bread and pasta. However, now, more than ever, many are finding that they may be sensitive to gluten and cannot tolerate it. Those with celiac disease have no choice but to eliminate gluten from their diet, while those who are sensitive to gluten may only need to cut back. Others may look at the health benefits of a gluten-free diet and decide they want to try and stop eating foods containing gluten entirely.
If anyone suspects they have an issue with gluten, they should look into a gluten intolerance test and seek advice from a medical professional first. Either way, it is important to know the benefits and risks of switching to a gluten-free diet.
What Is a Gluten-Free Diet?
When someone decides to eat a gluten-free diet, what that means is that they are either removing gluten to control celiac disease, wheat allergy, or gluten intolerance.
There is an abundance of gluten-free alternatives to things such as bread and pasta that people can get to replace the foods containing gluten and find success. Others may go for less processed foods and stick to lean meats, fruits and vegetables, and a few naturally gluten-free carbs such as potatoes and rice.
What Are the Benefits?
There are many life-changing benefits for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Since gluten causes damage to a person’s small intestine when they are celiac disease, removing gluten from their diet prove immensely beneficial. When gluten is removed, a person with celiac can allow their gut to heal, and they can manage any of the symptoms associated with consuming gluten.
Others who may be sensitive to gluten but do not have celiac disease may have minor issues digesting gluten and have symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and gas. These symptoms can be uncomfortable and painful. Because of this, it may be beneficial to cut out gluten so these people can get rid of these symptoms.
What Are the Risks?
On the other hand, trying a gluten-free diet may not be the best option if a person does not have an intolerance or celiac disease. This is because there are certain risks that come with cutting gluten out entirely.
First, going on a gluten-free diet could potentially cause them a lack of fiber in their diet. Most people who get rid of gluten from their diet include whole wheat products, which are a great source of fiber. In addition, there are great substitutions that one could consume that are high in fiber, but many do not choose to eat those. These grains include popcorn, beans, lentils, and high-fiber fruits and vegetables. Any of those would add fiber, but it has been shown that people are notorious for avoiding these foods and opting for other substitutions that are not great for them.
The second risk is an increased risk of a person developing type 2 diabetes. A study with many healthy people showed that those who consumed gluten were not at a high risk of being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The more gluten consumed, the lesser the risk.
Thirdly, there is a risk of a person not getting the proper amount of vitamins and nutrients. Plenty of unhealthy foods contain gluten, but many give a body the proper nutrients and vitamins needed to function correctly, such as vitamin B, iron, zinc, calcium, and phosphorus.
The final risk is a person could gain weight when they go completely gluten-free. This may be surprising since many people switch to a diet free of gluten because they believe it will help them lose weight. On the contrary, just because something is gluten-free does not mean it will cause a person to lose weight. Especially when looking at gluten-free baked goods, they usually contain more sugar and are higher in calories than their regular gluten-full counterpart.
In the end, a gluten-free diet may be necessary for those with celiac or gluten intolerance, but simply as a diet choice, it may be best to focus on healthier gluten choices instead.