Being diagnosed as having Celiac Disease is not the only reason that a gluten free diet might be right for you. If you are curious about the buzz around going gluten free then you may have already taken the first step and this article may help you make your decision.
#1. What Is Gluten?
As defined by Wikipedia – gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a protein composite contained in wheat and related grains, including barley, rye, and possibly oats. In some people a reaction to eating these proteins damages the lining of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.
#2. What Is Celiac Disease Or Gluten Intolerance?
The clinical diagnosis of gluten intolerance is an autoimmune digestive disorder called celiac disease, an autoimmune digestive disorder. It is also known as celiac sprue, gluten sensitive enteropathy, coeliac disease and non-tropical sprue. When people who are gluten intolerant eat it in some form, their body immunity system attacks the small intestine.
This leads to damage of the small fingerlike structures or vili that line the small intestine and promote nutrient absorption. Some individuals may have an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten and not be diagnosed with celiac disease.
Other individuals may have very similar symptoms or may just generally feel better when gluten is eliminated from their diet. Celiac disease is hereditary and is passed down from generations.
#3. Effects Of Celiac Disease
Untreated, Celiac Disease can have serious health effects:
- Vitamin and mineral deficiency
- Osteoporosis or osteopenia
- Pancreas Problems
- Nervous system disorders
- Fertility problems
- Lactose intolerance
- Gall bladder disorders
- Neurological and mental health ailments
- Intestine related cancers
#4. Symptoms Of Gluten Intolerance
It should be understood that a person can have be adversely affected by gluten without having celiac disease. Two of the most common complaints from people who suffer from gluten intolerance are fatigue and bowel issues including constipation or diarrhea, gas, bloating and pain.
Often Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) either accompanies gluten intolerance or is misdiagnosed in lieu of gluten sensitivity. In addition, lactose intolerance can be either related or elicit similar symptoms. There are over 300 symptoms which may indicate a gluten intolerance or even celiac disease making diagnosis elusive or difficult. Blood tests are available, but even these may be inconclusive.
#5. How To Ensure A Gluten Free Diet?
One of the best ways to determine if going gluten free will benefit you, is to try an elimination diet. This can be very problematic for most people because so many foods, seasonings and beverages contain gluten – even a few bread crumbs or a shared cooking surface can cause issues from cross contamination.
However, with just a little planning and about two-four weeks sans gluten can provide valuable relief and will be well worth the effort if gluten is at the root of discomfort for you or someone you love.
Undoubtedly there are some challenges to a gluten free diet; however, many people find the benefits far outweigh the challenges. The simplest way to determine if going gluten free is right for you is to remove it from your diet and track how you feel. If you feel better, then you may decide that is all the evidence you need.
The greatest challenge is truly eliminating all gluten. As mentioned gluten is often ‘hidden’ in common foods and beverages, even seasonings, which can make it more challenging to truly eliminate it. For example, many people may be surprised to find that common soy sauce is made with wheat! Beer is also a gluten laden beverage and should be avoided.
Stick To Natural Food
One of the best ways to ensure that all gluten is eliminated during your initial gluten free period is to stick to natural, unprocessed foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, rice, fish, and lean meats. Keep in mind that gluten and lactose (found in dairy products such as butter, milk, cheese, cream, yogurt etc.) may also be contributing to similar symptoms.
Therefore, avoiding these foods concurrently at least for a period of time may be important. After a week or two of avoiding these foods, trying to add one food back for a day or so will allow you to determine whether or not that particular food is one that causes issues.
If a reintroduced food does not alter the way you feel, then try another and so on until you experience an adverse symptom. Keep in mind that this will be a slow process, so be patient.
Consult Your Doctor
Of course, none of this is a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. Be sure to consult with your provider for specific diet and healthcare recommendations.
It is important to note that the clinical tests for celiac disease may be more accurate if done while fully engaging in your normal diet including any typical ingestion of foods including gluten.
#6. Advantages Of Going Gluten Free
Many people find that they feel more energetic, less tired; even ‘lighter’ within a short period of time without gluten. Often weight loss is a side effect that people experience as part of this process. Even if the scale doesn’t show a drop in pounds, the reduction of bloating may make the waistline seem looser.