We have become accustomed to dietary changes, fads and developments in the modern day world. Where does a gluten free diet come in then? It may be a new diet fad for some. But, for others it is actually a way of life for some. People suffering from celiac disease must follow a gluten free diet to maintain health and eliminate pain. So why would a non-sufferer go gluten free?
Why is gluten free so popular?
There are primarily three groups of eaters when it comes to following a gluten free diet – celiac sufferers, regular eaters and people suffering from non- celiac gluten sensitivity. Celiac disease is a serious condition whereby removing gluten from the diet is a necessity. It is estimated that 80% of sufferers are actually unaware that they suffer from the condition which is quite worrying.
People with the gluten sensitivity can experience painful symptoms like bloating, headaches and fatigue. Many people will have symptoms without knowing they have a gluten sensitivity. This can often be because unfortunately there is no exact way to diagnose it. This can be frustrating for patients with regards to visiting their doctor and getting nowhere.
So what can we do if we suspect we have a gluten sensitivity but are not sure? The most reliable way of finding out is by completely eliminating gluten from your diet and feeling if symptoms are reduced or gone. Once you have established if there is a change then you can reintroduce gluten and monitor how your body reacts to it.
Celiac disease vs. gluten sensitivity
What exactly is the difference then between celiac disease and a gluten sensitivity? A gluten sensitivity will not damage the intestinal lining like it does with celiac sufferers. What does occur however is that the body’s immune system attacks it’s-self which results in the bodily symptoms.
Clearly then gluten can be the source of painful signs and symptoms for those with medical problems including celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. But, what about the regular eaters with no medical basis for following a gluten free diet? Do people adopt the diet simply because it is tendency in our society to follow health trends which are often championed by celebrities?
It would appear that there is perhaps a misconception concerning gluten because without a medical ailment there is no basis to assume we are healthier without it. In fact when we consider ‘gluten’ and what it is there is some evidence that it is indeed good for you and removing it from the diet may be harmful.
What is gluten?
Gluten contains two kinds of proteins – gliadint and glutenin. The negative response to the gluten is from gliadint. Also contained in gluten are sources of important vitamins, minerals and fibre. It makes sense to consume gluten products if you do not have the problematic reaction. If you avoid it without reason you will miss out on significant nutritional benefits.
Apart from the influence of well-known gluten free eaters there is another reason why the gluten free diet is so popular. And, that is to do with the way it is marketed. We see it more and more often. ‘Gluten free’ labels on popular food produce. It is often written beside ‘Omega 3’ and other health claims which we associate as being the healthiest option to us. It is of no surprise then, that people are making this the diet of their choice.
What are the dangers?
Health hazards from following a gluten free diet unnecessarily is the over consumption of foods higher in calories. Which, goes against the popular belief that it may actually help with weight loss. On the other hand many people have reported skin problems clearing up because of the diet. Even with conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. It is not clear though whether this is due to the lack of gluten or simply the reduction of processed foods.
Many considering a gluten free diet due to bloating or other conditions should seek advice from their physician or even a dietician before starting the diet. If you are advised to go gluten free, then fear not, there is still food on the menu! It is fine to consume the following; rice, soy, beans, corn and potato.
Gluten can be sneaky and is found in some unexpected places such as in our toothpaste and many cosmetics. Even the medicine we take can contain gluten. The name ‘gluten’ is used because of its glue like properties…it actually aids the digestive process in the body.
Anyone considering going gluten free for the sake of it may want to reconsider their reasons. It is certainly not because it is written in large letters on some of our favourite brands that we should buy it. Add to the fact that a gluten free diet is generally expensive. For those without the option, the choice of products is vast and increasing.