Is Being Gluten-Free Worth The Hassle
Gluten-free diets have been on everyone’s minds the last few years as both research into gluten-related disorders has increased and eating gluten-free by choice has been popularized. However, being entirely gluten-free is a challenging and even expensive task. Before jumping in, you might want to consider the following.
Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Intolerance, and Other Gluten Related Disorders
For those with diagnosed gluten-related disorders, a gluten-free diet isn’t a choice. It’s an issue of long-term threats to their health and even lifespan. If you have been diagnosed with such a disorder, take your doctor’s advice seriously. Seek out the gluten not just in the obvious places, like all things bread, but in places you least expect. It may be a pain, but you can look forward to some real health benefits in your everyday life.
Because of what gluten-related disorders can do to your guts, you may experience chronic fatigue. The fatigue may even be so chronic you don’t realize how tired you are. Once you go gluten-free, though, that energy will start to return as your body (particularly your gut) heals.
Due to the symptoms that come with gluten-related disorders, particularly celiac, you may have experienced uncontrollable weight loss over time. Lack of nutritional absorption, low appetite, and chronic diarrhea or nausea all take their toll on your healthy body weight. Despite the headlines, thinner isn’t always better, and the healthy weight you put back on will have your body singing.
Nobody likes a bad case of bloat, except a gluten-related gut disorder. Intestinal bloat is their favorite thing, no matter what you might think of having the sensation as a semi-permanent body roommate. Good news! Go gluten-free and kick that sponge of a roommate to the curb.
A gluten-related disorder is a pain in the neck, often literally. For your joints, the issue comes from the immune response that gluten can trigger. Immune responses mean inflammation, and inflammation means pain in the joints. The pain in your knees, back, and wrists could all be gluten-related. Reduced gluten exposure = reduced inflammation = reduced pain. Voila!
And while no one is quite clear on the connection, data shows a strong correlation between celiac and migraines. More happily, there’s also a strong trend of eating gluten-free, reducing or eliminating migraines in such patients.
It turns out your lactose intolerance might be related to celiac too. Because gluten has damaged your guts, said guts sometimes become incapable of producing enzymes needed to break down lactose. A gluten-free diet reverses this, so while you might be losing access to glutinous treats, the world of ice cream will be yours again! (Make sure it’s gluten-free ice cream; many of your favorite brands are!)
Speaking of unexpected ties to your gut, people with celiac are more likely to experience depression. While the connection isn’t well understood, the research shows that a gluten-free diet helps ease symptoms of depression and improve the overall quality of life for celiac patients.
It might not be the dry weather that’s causing those itchy rashes you suffer from—it may be the celiac. Known not only to cause rashes but also psoriasis and eczema, the only way to beat celiac at this game is—you guessed it—that all-important gluten-free diet.
Let’s spend a minute focusing on what better nutritional absorption can mean for you. Aside from reduced bloating, improved energy, and healthy weight gain, nutritional absorption (or lack of it) can affect your bones and other bodily tissues. Those with celiac are at higher risk for osteoporosis and other bone density issues, but strictly following your gluten-free diet can help reverse such problems. Your renewed ability to absorb calcium can improve your bone density and thus your overall skeletal health.
And for those of you bothered by thinning hair, more nutritional absorption-related good news! If your thinning hair is related to a nutritional deficiency, sticking to a strict gluten-free diet can help. An influx of nutrients from your healing gut will help reverse hair loss and improve both texture and density in your hair.
Your body will be able to get the nutrition it’s been starving for all this time. Keep in mind that gluten-heavy foods often account for a good chunk of your fiber and B vitamins, along with other nutritional necessities, however. Work with your doctor and dietician to ensure that your new healthy gut receives all the fiber and vitamins it needs for your body to repair itself.
Gluten-Free by Choice
Anyone diagnosed with a gluten-related disorder and instructed by medical professionals to eat gluten-free should take that to heart, but what about everyone else? Can eating a gluten-free diet bring promised boosts in energy, weight loss, or general better health to those who aren’t sensitive to gluten?
The unfortunately non-glamorous answer to that is mostly no with a small yes. There is currently no research that backs the claims that a gluten-free diet means better health or energy for those who aren’t gluten sensitive. There is one study that shows a link between a gluten-free diet and small amounts of weight loss. However (ready for the caveat?), it doesn’t seem to be based strictly on eating gluten-free, but rather on composing a careful gluten-free diet with many forms of healthy fiber added.
These two acting together appear to improve the gut microbiome’s interaction moderately, allowing for minor weight loss.
In the end, moving to an entirely gluten-free diet is a serious undertaking that requires a lot of work, creativity, and patience. The people who will benefit from it most are those who have a diagnosed gluten-related disorder. Suppose you’re just looking for a health boost. In that case, you’ll likely find that unless going gluten-free also means significantly upping your healthy fiber, reducing sweets, and maintaining an active lifestyle, benefits will be minimal to none. For anyone going gluten-free, do it carefully and with the help of dieticians and your doctor.