Walk into any grocery store and you’ll see a dedicated gluten-free section. With all these options, you may wonder if eating a gluten free diet is healthier, or if it will help you lose weight. Or, you may simply question what is gluten and all the hype?
What is Gluten? And Benefits of a Gluten Free Diet
It’s a collection of proteins in products made from wheat, rye and barley. The proteins expand when combined with yeast and can leave a gluey ball after everything else dissolves in water. This sticky ball of protein causes discomfort and health concerns in certain people who have intolerance to wheat and gluten, known as celiac disease. A doctor can diagnose celiac disease through blood tests and biopsies to determine whether contact with gluten is damaging the intestines, causing rashes or creating severe intestinal discomforts. If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, a GF diet helps you feel better.
Another reason for eating a gluten free is when you have a true allergy to the substance. An allergic reaction to gluten results in sneezing, wheezing, itching or hives- much like an allergic reaction to pet dander, dust and mold. A doctor will examine your symptoms to determine if you have a wheat or gluten allergy and if so, will recommend a gluten-free diet.
The third reason, and possibly the most common, for people choosing a gluten-free lifestyle, is when they have gluten sensitivity. This is not an allergy and does not damage the intestines, but if you are sensitive to gluten you may feel bloated, gassy or experience brain fog after eating a meal high in wheat and gluten. Unfortunately, researchers have also found that other chemicals in wheat products may be the culprit to these symptoms, so concluding that you are sensitive to gluten can be a long process.
If you feel better when you do not eat gluten, you may want to switch to a gluten free diet, but do not make the switch with the thought that you will lose weight. Weight loss is a reduction in calories consumed and when you switch to gluten-free, you may unknowingly eat more calories under the misconception that the foods contain fewer calories. You may also find yourself eating less fiber-rich foods, which help you feel satiated and in turn consume more calories.
When you have discovered your gluten intolerance, allergy or sensitivity, need to eat gluten-free and are under a doctor’s supervision, you feel better and experience less stomach discomfort. You can choose to follow a diet of meats, vegetables, fruits and rice, which will help you maintain your weight if you do not consume more calories than your body needs. If you enjoy snacks and sweets, gluten free options are easily found such as cookies and cake mixes. Many stores have non-gluten flour so you can make breads or pancakes out of rice, almond or corn-based products. Your eating habits will change, but you can still enjoy many of the same foods you did before, but without the gastrointestinal discomfort.