You walk through the store and you see the label 'gluten free' all over the place, right? What does it really mean? Does it mean that product is healthy for you? Marketers are hoping that's what you think so you'll buy the product, but the truth is, gluten is not bad for you unless you have celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten.
What is it? Gluten is actually a naturally occurring protein that is found in wheat and some other grains. It is also used as an additive in many other processed foods.
How does gluten affect people?
If a person has true celiac disease, gluten actually damages their intestines, preventing them from absorbing nutrients, and causing malnutrition malnutrition. It's possible for someone to be sensitive to gluten, but not have full blown celiacs, and in that case, they may have symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, digestive upset, fatigue, joint pain, and brain fog. Many symptoms that can not be awkward explained can stem back to gluten intolerance. Because it can cause inflammation in the body as the immune system is attacking the gluten proteins, it can cause other problems too, like hormonal imbalance, chronic fatigue, thyroid problems, and can also cause increasing food allergies. Once the digestive system is compromised or damaged, it can lead to a host of issues and be the undering cause of other conditions. Migraines, neurological issues, and even MS have been found to be caused by gluten intolerance.
What can you eat if you can not have gluten?
Processed foods that are labeled 'gluten free' do not always make the best choices for a healthy diet because a lot of times they are loaded with more calories, more fat, and more chemical additives to make them taste better. Whole, natural foods are a much better choice, and are readily available.
Foods that typically do not contain gluten are:
Fruits & Vegetables
Sweet potatoes, and white & red potatoes
White Rice, and things made from white rice, like hot rice cereal, puffed rice cereal – check the labels for additives
Brown Rice and things made from brown rice, like rice cakes, snack crackers – check the labels for additives
Nuts and natural nut butters
Most dairy products, but again, double check the labels
Coconut & Almond Milk
Gluten and weight gain
Gluten itself does not needlessly cause a person to gain weight, but if a person is gluten sensitive, the body's reaction – inflammation – can cause them to bloat and prevent them from losing weight. Going gluten free for the sole purpose of losing weight is not recommended.
What to do if you suspect you are gluten intolerant
If you think that you may have symptoms of gluten sensitivity, it may be beneficial to see your doctor, who can test you for celiac disease. If your symptoms are minor, you can simply remove gluten from your diet for 2-3 weeks and see if your symptoms improve. If you do avoid gluten, it's not something that you do intermittently as it can take awhile for it to get out of your system, so you would have to eliminate it completely to get accurate results.