Gluten Free...Good or Not?
by Jari Love
There is a lot of discussion regarding "gluten free". It is important to understand it clearly in order to make the right decisions about "going gluten free". If you are someone with intolerance to the protein known as gluten, there are far more "pros" than "cons" in pursuing a truly gluten free diet.
Does this mean that those without any sort of gluten-related issues should not go gluten free? Let's answer that by looking at the reasons that gluten is such a commonly discussed topic.
One in Every One Hundred and Thirty-Three
It is estimated that 1 in every 133 people are intolerant to gluten. What this means is that they are not technically "allergic" to it, but that their bodies are not recognizing it once they ingest it. For some, it causes digestive upset in the same way that lactose might disrupt the digestion of someone who has lactose intolerance. There is bloating, gassiness, and even extreme problems like diarrhea. For others, there are no signs at all, but damage is done all the same.
Gluten intolerance can manifest in the form of a chronic disease known as celiac disease or celiac sprue. There are millions of people with this autoimmune disorder, and many may not even realize they have it. The symptoms can remain "hidden" because they could be limited strictly to scarring or irritation in the small intestine. This leads to mal-absorption and that can lead to a lot of trouble. It can also lead to a long list of associated symptoms such as IBS, chronic digestive problems, weight gain or loss, and so on. Over the long term, untreated gluten intolerance and celiac disease can lead to many health issues.
So, when diagnosed with any type of gluten related digestive concern, the only way to maintain health is to eliminate it from the diet altogether. This will result in immediate improvements in overall health, and many people are more energized, clearer in their thinking, and even gain or lose weight because their body is finally getting nutrients delivered properly.
However, there is a "downside" to gluten free living, and it has to do with the elimination of the most common grains and all of the nutrients and dietary fiber they deliver. The truly gluten free lifestyle contains no wheat, rye, barley or other grains. This can make it challenging to get adequate fiber, and eating "substitutes" such as pre-made gluten free breads or baked goods can be even worse than a steady diet of junk food. This is because they are often loaded with sugar, fat, and "fillers".
To go gluten free because you have to is good, but it is not a smart way of losing weight or dieting if you do not need to remove gluten simply because nutrients and fiber may be difficult to replace.