There is virtually no limit to information in the media on foods, diets, and health.
We are always hearing something new and different, and some information contradicts what we heard before.
While much of what we hear is hype, others are actually valid. If you are puzzling over the question “What is gluten free diet & why is gluten bad?” some facts can help you make smart decisions for your own health.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a natural protein found in certain seeds. While it is most often associated with wheat, this protein also exists in rye, barley, and triticale.
Some oats contain gluten, while others do not. Oats do not naturally contain gluten. When gluten is present, it is because the oats were grown too close to wheat, barley, or rye.
Some People Must Avoid Gluten
For some individuals, avoiding gluten is not simply a matter of personal choice. There are numerous disorders associated with gluten.
Depending on a person’s specific condition, consuming gluten can have consequences ranging from minor and bothersome to symptoms that are actually life-threatening.
One category is autoimmune disorders. The most common example is celiac disease. Although it usually develops in early childhood, individuals of any age can develop it.
Affecting the gastrointestinal system, celiac disease can cause the abdomen to expand, chronic diarrhea, appetite loss, fatigue, and the inability to properly absorb nutrients from the diet. Children who have this disorder may not grow properly.
Gluten ataxia is a second example. It can destroy cells in the brain and cause intestinal damage.
Dermatitis herpetiformis is a third autoimmune disorder that can be caused by gluten. The itchy blisters can appear anywhere on the body.
A second category is non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Although it is not an autoimmune disorder, NCGS can cause a wide range of symptoms and complications.
Bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhea, GERD, nausea, or mouth ulcers may occur.
A third category of disorders connected to gluten is food allergies. There are different types of food allergies, with health effects ranging from acute asthmatic reactions to skin rashes.
If you have been diagnosed with any of these conditions, your doctor should have advised you to avoid gluten.
However, if you have been experiencing any of these symptoms, ask your doctor for diagnostic testing.
You may have a condition that makes consuming gluten unwise or even dangerous but are not yet aware of it.
Should Everyone Avoid Gluten?
With all the diet fads in the media, you may have heard gluten is bad for everyone and that you should eliminate it entirely from your diet.
Numerous studies have shown there may be a link between gluten and a variety of health issues, even in people who do not have disorders directly related to gluten.
Studies show gluten may increase the risk of both Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes, autoimmune liver disease, fibromyalgia, inflammation in the body, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune thyroid disorders, and autoimmune skin conditions.
For these reasons, parents are often advised to keep gluten out of children’s diets even during infancy.
The effects of gluten on the brain may increase the risk of mental health issues in some people. Anxiety, depression, and even mood disorders may be caused or worsened by the compounds in wheat gluten.
Obesity carries its own health risks. Even if you do not weigh enough to be classified as obese, extra pounds and body fat can also increase your risk of serious health problems.
If you have difficulty managing your weight, gluten in your diet may be the cause. It is another reason gluten is bad for you.
First, it has a negative effect on your blood sugar levels. While spikes and drops in blood sugar levels can result in fatigue, headaches, and other health issues, it can also cause hunger.
You do not have a normal sense of fullness after eating and want to eat again not long after a meal. You are likely to consume more food, and more calories, if gluten has a place in your diet.
Second, foods containing gluten can actually be addictive. This is a special problem with wheat gluten.
You should not be surprised if you cannot stop eating cookies after eating one but have no trouble at all eating only one piece of fruit. It can be quite difficult to stop eating wheat gluten, because it can increase your appetite.
There is another factor to consider when you want to know why gluten is bad for you. Whether you lead a very active lifestyle, are rather sedentary, or somewhere in between, all people need energy for good health and an enjoyable life.
If you have had the habit of choosing foods with gluten, you are not obtaining the results you want and deserve. That burst of energy may be fast, but it will quickly drop away. You will be less energetic, and more tired, than you were before.
For healthy natural energy that lasts long enough to be useful, avoid all of those products containing gluten.
The proteins in gluten are not beneficial and may lead to health issues you do not want. Instead, choose a healthier form of protein for natural energy.
Examples can include some lean beef, poultry, fish, or whole eggs. You can have plenty of energy for a productive day without any of the complications caused by foods containing gluten.
As diet fads come and go, you may recall when whole wheat products were presented as ideal. When products contain gluten, there is no real difference between whole wheat and processed foods.
Whole wheat bread, for example, may seem healthy and natural, but it can be just as harmful as bread made from bleached, processed wheat. Even if you do not have a specific medical condition, consider a gluten free diet.
Is A Gluten Free Diet Healthy?
As there are so many complications associated with gluten, you may be wondering if you should eliminate it entirely.
As you may have heard gluten provides certain nutrients and health benefits, you may think it is worthwhile to keep it in your diet.
Although there are indeed nutrients in gluten, and these nutrients are good for your health, it is still sensible to avoid it.
You can obtain all the nutritional benefits without any of the complications by choosing other foods that provide the nutrients instead.
There is an important point to keep in mind when you are considering a gluten free diet. You may find many foods listed as gluten free that are not in their natural state.
They are only gluten free because they have been processed and refined. Many essential nutrients and health benefits are lost in this process.
For the best results, choose foods that are naturally gluten free. Base your diet on lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and gluten free grains.
What Are the Health Benefits Of A Gluten Free Diet?
Even if you do not have any health issues related to gluten, you can look forward to health benefits when you choose a gluten free diet. Better health can start when you stop eating foods containing gluten.
You can have healthier cholesterol. Gluten actually elevates cholesterol levels. You can have a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.
As gluten affects the blood vessels, a gluten free diet may decrease your risk of many different heart conditions.
You can have a healthier digestive system. You will be less likely to be bothered by diarrhea, constipation, gas, and bloating.
You will have more energy, and long-lasting energy with a gluten free diet. Equally important, your energy levels can be stable and consistent when you choose healthy forms of protein instead of gluten.
You can have a lower risk of diabetes, some cancers, and obesity. You can have better health even if you currently have certain medical issues.
Arthritis and irritable bowel syndrome are only two conditions that may improve with a gluten free diet. It will be much easier to lose unwanted weight and keep your weight within ideal limits.
All of these direct benefits may be enough to convince you to eliminate gluten from your diet, but there are a number of other ways you can benefit from gluten free choices. Changes in your eating habits will also result in better health.
The vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in gluten free foods can reduce your risk of many diseases and viruses.
You can have better general health because you will not be eating processed foods. When you no longer eat gluten, you will be more likely to choose foods that are good for you.
For all these reasons, gluten free is a sensible choice. For a healthier body and a healthier lifestyle, consider the harmful effects of gluten and the benefits of a gluten free diet.
How To Start A Gluten Free Diet
When you want a gluten free diet, you need to know what you are buying and what you are eating. You can ask questions in restaurants, but the best place to start is with labels on products you buy to consume at home.
Check all the products you currently have in your refrigerator, freezer, and cabinets, and take time to read labels when you shop for groceries. You may be surprised at the wide range of products that contain gluten.
One category covers most baked goods. Breads and rolls, cookies, cakes, pies, crackers, seasoned snack foods, and croutons almost always contain gluten.
Snacks and treats with gluten are not limited to baked products. It is also found in many candies.
There are many products you might normally include in meals that have gluten, too. Vegetables with sauce, French fries, seasoned rice mixes, gravies, cereals, soy sauce, salad dressing, pasta, imitation seafood and imitation meats, soup, soup bases, processed meats, self-basting poultry, and matzo usually contain gluten.
While some of these products can be found in gluten free varieties, plan to make significant changes in your diet.
You can successfully create and maintain a diet that is completely free of gluten. It starts with awareness of the foods you are choosing, and the willingness to make changes.
Good Health with A Gluten Free Diet
A healthy diet is a balanced diet, and you can create it with gluten free foods. You need grains and starches in your diet for fiber and other nutritive value. Some gluten free products in this category include tapioca, rice, quinoa, gluten free flours, cornmeal, flax, soy, and hominy.
You can also have beans and a wide range of other legumes. If you like oatmeal, be sure to choose products that are labeled gluten free. You have many options for incorporating these foods into your diet. Be creative and take advantage of a wide range of recipes. From main dishes to side dishes, you can have tasty, nutritious meals without gluten.
In their natural state, all vegetables and fruits are gluten free. You only need to be concerned if they are prepared or served in other forms.
Popular flavorings, dressings, and sauces often contain gluten. As fresh fruits and vegetables are among the healthiest foods you can eat, it is definitely your best option.
If fresh produce is out of season, or too expensive where you live, buy frozen fruits and vegetables that do not contain any additional ingredients.
Vegetables and fruits are naturally low in calories, too, so you can enjoy them whenever you wish even if you want to lose weight. They make excellent snacks as well as meals.
Meat, poultry, fish and other seafood are gluten free options for protein. However, these products are often prepared and served with additional ingredients that do contain gluten.
If you are accustomed to gravies or breading, it should not take long to appreciate these foods in their natural form. Plain meats, poultry, and fish are much healthier, and they are also delicious.
If you have always had gravy on your meat and breading on your fish, try the simple, plain alternative. You will not miss the gluten or the extra calories. You can also choose whole fresh eggs as a gluten free source of protein.
Most dairy products are gluten free but develop the habit of reading labels. Some yogurts and ice creams contain added gluten.
Keep the same point in mind for non-dairy alternatives. Soy milk and other soy-based products should be labeled gluten free.
Nuts are naturally gluten free. Similar to other foods, there is only a problem when nuts are processed and contain additional ingredients.
Nuts can be a nice snack if you choose raw, natural nuts, instead of nuts that have been processed, roasted, or flavored. Brazil nuts, walnuts, macadamia nuts, cashews, pecans, peanuts, and almonds have no gluten unless it has been added.
Plain, unprocessed seeds can be good for snacks, too. Read the labels on packages of sunflower seeds, Chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and any other seeds you enjoy as snacks.
Grains and other fiber, fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and dairy products are the foundations of a healthy, balanced diet. It is not extremely difficult to make sure the foods you eat do not contain gluten.
It is essential to read labels, though, because many foods you would not expect to contain gluten actually do. This includes foods that are otherwise healthy, such as some veggie burgers and some soy products.
When you develop the habit of reading labels before purchasing food, you will know you are not eating anything that contains gluten.
Make A Gluten Free Diet Work for You
Whether you like plain food or variety, a gluten free diet can meet your personal preferences. Nearly all gluten free foods can be eaten plain.
You can also find many recipes online and in cookbooks. Every meal and snack you prepare at home can be tasty, nutritious, and gluten free.
To gain the most benefits, set a reasonable balance between preferences and trying new things.
The healthiest diet in the world will not be useful if you force yourself to eat foods you truly dislike.
While you should be open to trying different foods, do not feel obligated to eat foods you hate. There are so many options that your meals can be a genuine pleasure.
There can be occasions when eating at home is not an option. This does not mean you must give up your gluten free diet.
When you dine out in restaurants, it should not be difficult to ask the waitress or cook for gluten free foods. As this diet is becoming quite popular, you may even see listings on the menu.
On other occasions, you can simply take food from home. If your workplace only offers vending machines, or a cafeteria with unhealthy food, do not feel embarrassed over taking your lunch to work in a brown bag or lunchbox. Food from home can even work in social settings.
If you plan to attend a party, or visit someone’s home, you may not know in advance what will be on the menu.
It should not bother you at all to take some small containers of gluten free foods. Your host or hostess will not be offended when you say you have decided to avoid gluten for health reasons.
Gluten free can be easy in recreational settings. If you are going to see a ballgame, ride your bike, or spend time at the gym, you do not need to wait and see what is available.
Some fresh fruit or vegetables, and a container of fresh juice will keep you satisfied while you have a good time. You can enjoy any activity, and not leave your gluten free diet behind.
It is always wise to talk to your doctor before making any major changes in your diet. Although gluten free is appropriate for most people, ask your doctor’s opinion.
He may advise you to take dietary supplements to ensure you do not lack essential nutrients or have a different recommendation altogether.
Your doctor’s advice is also important if you are considering a gluten free diet for others in your household.
Whether you have small children, an elderly relative, or a family member who has a medical condition, ask your doctor’s approval before eliminating gluten from their diets. In most cases it is suitable and beneficial, but only your physician knows for sure.
After you have obtained approval from your personal physician, you have two options for making a gluten free diet a part of your everyday life.
Unless your doctor has a specific recommendation, simply choose the option that suits you the best. The approach you take can make a difference when you want the diet to work for you.
One approach is to eliminate gluten totally and immediately. Some people find it easiest to take this “cold-turkey” approach.
If this option does not appeal to you, and you feel you would miss certain foods too much, you have another option.
You can take a slow, steady approach, and eliminate gluten little by little. You can start by cutting out some foods containing gluten, and then cut out more and more foods that contain it.
There is no right way to go gluten free, so choose whichever option works for you. It can be a positive experience, and you will love the results.
Dietary Changes for Your Health
You had been wondering “What is gluten free diet, and why is gluten bad?” You now have the answers to make an informed decision.
While some people must avoid gluten due to serious health issues, a gluten free diet is best for almost everybody.
There is nothing in gluten that you actually need, and no real benefits to consuming it. As long as you have a balanced diet, there is no reason to eat gluten.
You are better off without it. Even if you are thinking about foods you like, it is easy to find healthier alternatives.
A gluten free diet can be an exciting adventure. There are many new foods to try, and different versions of your favorite foods.
Recipes for gluten free cooking are almost limitless. When you start noticing health benefits and how good you feel, you will be happy with your decision.
With your doctor’s approval, your entire family can have these benefits, too.