A gluten-free diet can be a great choice for certain people. When you remove gluten from your diet, you exclude products like wheat and rye. Wheat products are known to cause digestive problems in certain groups of individuals.
If you’re considering removing gluten from your diet, here are five essential things you should know about a gluten-free diet.
1. Why Some People Avoid Gluten
You may overhear people at restaurants asking if certain foods are gluten-free or if there are alternatives. Often, these questions are for more than just preference. People with disorders like celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity and wheat allergies avoid gluten products.
Around 1% of the global population is affected by celiac disease. With this disease, the body mistakes gluten for a threat and overreacts, attacking the gluten proteins. The attack can damage areas like the gut wall and cause nutrient deficiencies and severe digestive issues. People with celiac disease often have symptoms like:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Sharp stomach pain
- Stomach discomfort
- Weight loss
- Skin rashes
People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may not have celiac disease or a wheat allergy but they still feel discomfort after eating it. Common symptoms include stomach pain, bloating, bowel movement changes, tiredness and skin rashes.
A wheat allergy is an allergic reaction that occurs in response to the proteins in wheat. It can cause symptoms like hives, headache, difficulty breathing and congestion.
2. What To Avoid
Since gluten is such a common ingredient in food and drinks, cutting it from your diet can be difficult. Wheat is the primary source of gluten but can be hidden in other wheat-based products like wheat bran, wheat flour, durum, spelt, kamut and semolina. Other sources of gluten are barley, rye, triticale, malt and brewers yeast.
Be sure to check labels for those ingredients to avoid discomfort. You will need to follow a strict gluten-free diet without certain food items. Some foods must be avoided since they almost always have gluten ingredients. Unless labeled overwise, watch out for these items.
- Cakes, cookies, muffins, pastries
- Candy, crackers, flavored chips, pretzels
- Soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, salad dressings
3. Health Benefits
A gluten-free diet has many benefits for people who have a gluten-related disorder. It can help relieve digestive issues like gas, bloating and diarrhea. Inflammation is reduced as antibody levels decrease and help treat damage to the gut.
In addition to the gut benefits, there are other advantages to a gluten-free diet. People with celiac disease may feel tired with brain fog. This happens because a damaged gut causes possible nutrient deficiencies. Cutting gluten can heal your gut and boost your energy levels.
When switching to a gluten-free diet, it is not uncommon to lose weight. This diet requires you to eliminate high-calorie and processed foods and replace them with whole foods.
4. Downsides Of A Gluten-Free Diet
Despite the health benefits, there are downsides to the diet as well. This diet might not help treat nutritional deficiencies because most gluten-free food products are higher in saturated fat, sodium and carbs. Constipation is another common side effect. Gluten-free diets eliminate many foods that are high in fiber.
The cost of gluten-free foods is often higher than regular food. Since these products are less in demand and require special care to make, consumers take on the extra price. Socializing may also become a challenge when you have to ensure there will be gluten-free options at restaurants you visit. Although it is not impossible, it requires more preparation.
5. How To Start
If you want to try a gluten-free diet, you should talk to your doctor. You will need the right guidance to meet your nutritional needs while having a balanced diet. Check out these tips for starting your gluten-free diet:
- Always check for warnings or ingredients on packages.
- Separate utensils and dishes that may have been used with gluten
- Substitute oat, quinoa or other gluten-free alternative grain flour for wheat flour while baking.
The Bottom Line
It can be hard to navigate the world when your body can’t tolerate gluten. Make sure you have a plan and are educated on following a gluten-free diet to get the most out of your life.