I know that most people, especially those who are gluten intolerant, understand the reasons for following a gluten free diet. But I still get a lot of questions about the benefits and expected results of sticking with a diet having no gluten. I decided I needed to summarize what I know in a way you might find helpful. You can also give this information to your friends and family to answer some of their questions. It’s hard to get it all in one summary, but I will do my best.
Aims of a Gluten Free Diet
A gluten free diet is a diet that uses ingredients and foods that don’t contain the gluten protein. The gluten protein is what makes bread rise when you add yeast, and what makes dough sticky. Unfortunately, many people cannot ingest gluten. They have an autoimmune disease that is called Celiac Disease, or Celiac Sprue. It causes the Villi in the intestines to flatten and food nutrients are not absorbed into the body. People with gluten intolerance cannot eat gluten – period! In the most severe cases, if left undiagnosed, a Celiac can get malnutrition. In the best case, symptoms will be mild and probably involve gas or diarrhea.
Gluten is found in rye, wheat, and barley (oats can be cross-contaminated too.) As a result, many processed foods contain gluten including cereals and breads. Fortunately, there are grains that do not contain gluten. For example, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, rice and soybeans contain no gluten (however, be careful as some buckwheat is actually combined with wheat in manufacturing – always check your ingredients carefully).
It has not been that long since the discovery that more people are gluten intolerant than was ever thought possible. One Maryland study reported it was possible that 1 out of every 132 people in the USA has a gluten intolerance. Being a capitalistic country, food manufacturers jumped on the bandwagon and began producing gluten free products using the grains and other foods that don’t contain the gluten protein.
The primary aim of a good gluten free diet is to keep a gluten intolerant person healthy. It is to prevent an intestinal reaction to the gluten protein. In my opinion, a gluten-free diet should be as interesting as a gluten-filled diet! This takes some doing, especially when it comes to desserts, but it is completely possible with the right ingredients and plenty of planning.
Benefits of a Gluten Free Diet
There are many benefits to a gluten free diet even if you are not gluten intolerant. Of course, the first and best benefit is the fact that you will feel better. If your body is able to absorb nutrients properly, overall health is improved. But there could be many other benefits too. Unexplained symptoms that have plagued you all your life may very well disappear after 6 to 12 months on a gluten free diet. These include the following:
· Abnormal bone loss slows
· Anemia disappears
· Dermatitis Herpetiformis (skin rash) clears
· Mysterious headaches don’t continue
· Constant fatigue abates
· Constant gas, diarrhea and bloating, after you eat, stops
In other words, the benefits of a gluten free diet all center around the fact that you will feel better in every way. There is a theory that many allergies are actually triggered by ingesting the gluten protein. If it is true, and studies continue, then almost everyone would benefit from following a gluten free diet! Besides, no one needs all the carbohydrates in their diet that are found in typical gluten foods. I don’t know about you, but fewer donuts and pieces of bread did my hips a lot of good. I guess that is another benefit of not eating gluten.
Results of a Gluten Free Diet
In my opinion, one of the best results of following a gluten free diet is the fact it made me rethink my whole diet. We live in a junk-food, fast-food society. It takes real effort to eat a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables. When I had to begin following a gluten free diet, I began tracking everything I ate. I began substituting fruit for cakes and cookies, filled up at meals on vegetables instead of bread, and gave up all fried food because most of it is dipped in a wheat coating of some kind. The result was I felt 100% better. I can still bake a gluten-free cake if I want, but I have discovered I have broken my addiction to sugar.
And that is a very good result!