Starting a gluten-free diet can be a total diet revamp. It might be a little overwhelming at first, and there are certainly challenges along the way. However, aiming for a slow transition makes it easier to switch to a gluten-free diet. But in most cases, going gluten-free is a matter of medical necessity. For instance, gluten-free eating is more than a fad diet for people with celiac disease or wheat allergies and sensitivities. Moreover, even if going gluten-free is a personal choice, knowing the basic premise about the diet and gluten is necessary.
Gluten: An Introduction
Gluten is a family of proteins in the endosperms of grass-related grains like wheat, rye, and barley. On its own, gluten is not a harmful protein. Instead, gluten improves bread’s elasticity, spongy texture, chewiness, and structural stability. The problem with gluten occurs when the body fails to tolerate it. The body mistakenly views gluten as a foreign invader and induces an inflammatory response against it. The resulting symptoms include breathing difficulty, swollen tongue and lips, rashes, nausea, and abdominal pain. Gluten intolerance is also prevalent in people with celiac disease and gluten allergy.
The HealthifyMe Note
Gluten is a protein that consists of a combination of prolamin and glutenin found primarily in grains. You generally find it in wheat, rye, barley, triticale, etc. It has various health benefits, including reducing inflammation, boosting energy, aiding in weight loss, etc. However, gluten allergy or gluten intolerance is common.
Health benefits of Going Gluten-Free
Reduces Joint Pain
Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are both gastrointestinal disorders but can have extended consequences. The celiac disease raises the danger of inflammation because it generates an irregular immunological response. In addition, celiac disease is characterised by joint discomfort, particularly in the knees, back, and wrists.
According to research, a gluten-free diet can avoid joint pain. However, ensure not to eat even a small quantity of gluten because it might cause your symptoms to return.
Improves energy levels
Gluten-sensitive people frequently experience constant exhaustion because their intestines impair their ability to absorb minerals like iron. Iron deficiency causes fatigue and resistance to work. Shifting to a gluten-free diet can allow your intestines to repair.
Reduces lactose intolerance
Lactose intolerance symptoms frequently accompany Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. It happens because the stomach lining forms lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose-containing dairy items.
Gluten sensitivity causes harm to the stomach, making lactase synthesis challenging to synthesise. However, this event is temporary, and you can treat it through a gluten-free diet.
Reduces the frequency of headaches
Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity symptoms can arise outside the gastrointestinal system (extraintestinal symptoms). Such symptoms can develop as headaches, and people with celiac disease are more likely to suffer from migraines.
Gluten sensitivities can trigger the body’s inflammatory response, leading to headaches. People with gluten sensitivity, their body reacts with inflammation after eating gluten.
A combination of midlife hormonal changes with a rise in inflammation caused by gluten sensitivity can cause headaches. According to studies, gluten-free food can alleviate these symptoms and help eliminate headaches.
The most significant difference when becoming gluten-free is to give up popular staples like bread, pasta, cereals, and processed snack items. Such foods are often highly processed, lack nutrients and are heavy in calories.
Cutting them from your daily diet can make you feel better and help you lose weight. Despite the availability of gluten-free substitutes, a gluten-free diet typically leads to a return to naturally gluten-free food items such as fruits, vegetables, and cereals, including brown rice, quinoa, and millet. These low-processed, high-fibre items in your diet help you lose weight.
Celiac disease patients are more prone to a variety of nutrient deficits. Among these nutrients are fibre, iron, calcium, vitamin B12, folate, zinc, and vitamins A, D, E, and K.
According to studies, a gluten-free diet does not assist with nutritional deficits. According to research, this happens mainly because people following a gluten-free diet are more likely to choose manufactured “gluten-free” meals over healthful foods like fruits and vegetables.
Furthermore, most gluten-free meals do not have B vitamins like folate. Therefore, people taking gluten-free food are at special risk of vitamin B deficiency.
In addition, people on a gluten-free diet may be at risk of B vitamin insufficiency because enriched bread is a primary source of these vitamins. It is particularly problematic for celiac disease-affected pregnant women who need B vitamins.
Constipation constitutes a regular gluten-free diet adverse effect. Several common sources of fibre, such as bread, bran, and other wheat-based items, are eliminated from gluten-free meals.
As per studies, a fibre-rich diet can aid in the maintenance of regular bowel motions. Furthermore, several gluten-free wheat-based food alternatives are deficient in fibre.
If you’re having a gluten-free diet and are experiencing constipation, try eating extra fibre-rich fruits and vegetables like broccoli, beans, lentils, Brussels sprouts, and berries.
Makes Socialising Difficult
Food is at the core of several social interactions. If you’re on a gluten-free diet, this might make it tough to socialise. While many establishments provide gluten-free alternatives, gluten contamination is still possible.
Unfortunately, statistics show that over 21% of celiac disease patients miss social engagements to maintain their gluten-free diet. You can still socialise while on a gluten-free diet, though. It merely necessitates a little additional planning ahead of time.
For example, if you’re going to dine, phone ahead to check if they offer gluten-free choices. You may have to carry your meals to a social event.
On a limited budget, sticking to a gluten-free diet might be challenging. It happens because gluten-free foods are more expensive to produce.
In addition, gluten-free goods have to undergo more stringent testing to avoid contamination. While on a budget, consume complete, single-ingredient meals because they’re less expensive.
Gluten-free food manufacturers need to discover alternative ways to achieve the binding texture, frequently replacing up to 20 ingredients to replace the original one.
It causes a price rise due to the additional components. However, the increased demand for gluten-free goods in the food and beverage sector may spur industrial advances in the future, lowering prices.
Cross-Contact with Gluten
Minimise cross-contact with gluten-containing products while cooking gluten-free meals. Cross-contact occurs when gluten-containing meals are cooked on shared surfaces or cutlery that people often do not wash properly after use.
One possible cause of cross-contact is using tools for gluten-free and gluten-containing items that are difficult to clean later. For example, using the same toasters, strainers, or flour sifters for both foods is not a good idea. Also, try and prevent deep-fried items prepared in oil also used to prepare breaded items.
Cross-contact can further result from spreadable seasonings kept in shared containers. Whenever possible, use squeeze containers for toppings to avoid cross-contamination.
Furthermore, wheat flour lingers in the air for a long time at a bakery or home, landing on open worktops, cutlery, or uncovered gluten-free items, posing a risk to anybody who avoids gluten.
You should not start with a gluten-free diet unless a gluten-related condition has been adequately identified. Adopting the diet before completing all necessary tests renders eventual diagnosis more challenging. In addition, when a person is on a gluten-free diet for a long time, tests to establish celiac disease can be mistakenly negative. Gluten must be administered multiple weeks before tests to make an accurate diagnosis.
A gluten-free food with a third-party gluten-free certificate label, like the GFCO marking, is deemed safe for gluten-free customers. However, please note that they usually contain more sugar, calories, and fibre than the meals they replace.
The HealthifyMe Note
A gluten-free diet includes foods that are absolutely free from gluten. Some examples include quinoa, gluten-free oats, low-fat dairy, flax, buckwheat, arrowroot, amaranth, eggs, lean chicken, fruits and vegetables.
Adopting a gluten-free diet is a huge lifestyle change that can sometimes be stressful, especially for newly diagnosed. There are multiple factors about meals, ingredients, lifestyle and cooking adjustments to be learnt. To ease and manage your gluten-free journey, try to take it slow and be patient with every step. It takes time to see any significant change in the body.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q: What can you eat on a gluten-free diet?
A: There are several food items in a gluten-free diet that you can consume. Include fruits and vegetables, beans, seeds, unprocessed legumes and nuts, eggs, lean and unprocessed meats, fish and poultry, rice, millet, and low-fat dairy products.
Q: Are potatoes gluten-free?
A: Yes, potatoes are gluten-free. Gluten is a protein in cereals such as wheat, rye, barley, and others. Potatoes are starchy vegetables, not cereal. They are therefore safe for consumption for anyone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. However, you must be cautious about their manner of preparation since any extra ingredients added may contain gluten.
Q: Is a gluten-free diet healthy?
A: Based on the gluten-free items you pick, the frequency of their consumption, and if other food items you consume are nutritious, a gluten-free diet can add to your overall health. However, there are a few downsides attached to a gluten-free diet too. For example, it reduces bloating and joint discomfort.
Q: Can you lose weight on a gluten-free diet?
A: Although a gluten-free diet does not directly affect body weight, it helps reduce overall weight. Most of the food items involved in a gluten-free diet are fibre-rich and low-processed foods. Therefore, they naturally help the body stay light and feel full for a long time. Further, many foods in a gluten-free diet have protein like eggs, which help limit hunger hormones like ghrelin.
Q: Do eggs have gluten?
A: Eggs by themselves and their different parts- yolk, white, etc.- are gluten-free. The risk of eggs containing gluten comes from how eggs are prepared and where eggs are packed. There are chances of cross-contamination if eggs are prepared on pans, skillets, spatulas, etc., which are also used to prepare other products containing gluten. Further, it is better not to consume eggs in places that prepare various types of bread since the chances of gluten contamination are high.
Q: Is Rice gluten?
A: Gluten is a protein generally found in wheat, barley and rye. Consumption of these grains is not suitable for people allergic or sensitive to gluten. Rice is free from gluten in all its variants- brown or white. It is, however, to be kept in mind that if rice is processed, grown or harvested around grains like wheat, it may contain gluten from cross-contamination. Such a phenomenon can also occur when open rice is sold next to grains like rye, barley, etc., in grocery stores.
Q: Is peanut butter gluten?
A: By its natural design, peanuts and, consequently, peanut butter is gluten-free. However, additional ingredients added to peanut butter may contain gluten. Furthermore, if the peanuts used in peanut butter are processed at facilities that process wheat, then such peanut butter might not be gluten-free due to cross-contamination. Therefore, reading the label on such a product is always advisable.
Q: Is bacon gluten?
A: Bacon is a cut of meat made from pork belly, spices, and additives- none containing gluten. Bacon by itself does not contain gluten. However, unless specified on the pack, there can be chances of bacon containing gluten because of cross-contamination from facilities processing gluten products. Additionally, the smoke flavour in some bacon variants comes from barley malt powder, which contains gluten. Therefore, you should thoroughly examine the packaging while buying bacon to ascertain whether it is gluten-free.
Q: Does milk have gluten?
A: You can only find gluten in a specific group of foods. Milk does not belong to that group. Therefore, unless you add additional ingredients, milk in all its forms- skimmed, whole, low fat, etc.- does not contain gluten.
Q: What happens to your body when you first go gluten-free?
A: People with celiac disease going gluten-free can see a reduction in symptoms like GI problems, weight loss, better nutritional absorption, fewer soreness and pains, and enhanced energy levels. After starting a gluten-free diet, it takes around a week to see noticeable improvements in the body. Within a few days, many patients begin to feel better. However, it will take many months for the intestines to recover.