As the topic of gluten-free becomes increasingly popular, it leaves many people wondering whether this is the latest fad diet, or a truly successful way to improve health and to lose weight. Others may have no idea what gluten is and how to even begin to go “gluten-free”. Here are a few simple ways to understand gluten, how to test if gluten-free is right for you, and how to get started.
So, what is gluten anyway? Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture. Foods made from grains such as wheat, barley, and spelt contain gluten, so that includes but is not limited to breads, pasta, pastries, cakes, cookies, crust, and flour tortillas. For those with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, eating any of these foods can result in negative symptoms.
There are two different types of gluten intolerance. Some people are diagnosed with celiac disease by their doctor through lab testing and symptom-based assessments. Other people are suspected to have gluten sensitivity or gluten intolerance. Both, result in an inflammatory response in the body when gluten is ingested which results in a variety of symptoms, such as nausea, gastrointestinal upset or constipation, bloating, chronic fatigue, irritability, joint pain, fluid retention or depression. According to the Center of Celiac Disease at the University of Maryland, 1 in every 132 people in America has celiac disease and up to 1 in 7 people have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
There is a simple way to test whether “gluten-free” may be right for you. It’s called the “gluten elimination diet”. Simply eliminate foods containing gluten for seven days. Around day six, take note of how you feel. Do you have more energy? Do you feel less bloated or less irritable? On day eight, reintroduce those foods back into your diet and pay close attention to how you feel. If you notice negative symptoms such as feeling moody, bloated, sick, or tired, this may a good indication for you to limit or exclude gluten products from your food choices.
The great news for those who want to go gluten-free is that there are many options out there to make an easy transition. Many restaurants now have gluten-free menus if you ask for it. Wheat bread products can be replaced with brown rice or brown rice wraps. Quinoa or brown rice pasta is an excellent substitute for wheat pasta. Coconut flour or almond flour easily replaces wheat flour in the kitchen. Gluten-free sections can be found in most grocery stores. However, it is important to remember that not all gluten-free foods are good for you. There are many gluten-free cookies and desserts available. Don’t be deceived into believing that all items labeled “gluten-free” are healthy. Gluten-free junk food is still junk food.
About Bree Ziegler
Bree Ziegler RN, BCHC is a Certified Holistic Health Coach, Weight Loss Specialist and Registered Nurse.