Gluten-free eating is on the rise with gluten-free options popping up everywhere from your grocery store to your favorite restaurants. But why are so many people doing it? In a nutshell: for their health.
Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity
What started out as a way of eating for those with Celiac disease—intolerance to the protein gluten leading to inflammation of the small intestine—has quickly grown into a way of eating that appeals to many because of how it makes them feel. According to information published in the Harvard Health Letter, an estimated 2 million Americans have celiac disease but only roughly 300,000 have been diagnosed with it. Along with celiac disease, there are also people who suffer from gluten sensitivity, also called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This may explain why so many people switch to a gluten free diet and feel a notable difference in their gastrointestinal health even if they haven’t been found to have celiac disease. People with celiac disease have such a severe intolerance to gluten that even a tiny morsel of food containing gluten can wreak havoc on their gastrointestinal tract and lead to symptoms that can include:
- Abdominal cramps
- Concentration difficulties
Those with gluten sensitivity tend to feel the same symptoms to varying degrees. And while there are tests to help diagnose celiac disease, diagnosing gluten sensitivity is a matter of elimination. This means that if your tests are negative for celiac, then eliminating gluten from your diet to see if there is an improvement of your symptoms is the next step. Most people do feel better when they cut back on the amount of products containing gluten that they consume. The big difference between those with celiac and those with gluten sensitivity is that you have a little more leeway and may be able to get away with some gluten and not feel as much discomfort as someone with celiac.
There are all kinds of benefits to going gluten-free that people have reported. For some it is relief from all of the gastrointestinal symptoms listed above while for others it’s some weight loss and feeling more energetic. The benefits seem to vary from person to person. One thing that’s clear is that as long as you speak to your doctor first and make sure that you continue to get the nourishment that you need, going gluten-free is bound to improve the way you feel. And, in case you’re wondering how to eat gluten-free, it’ll take a little getting used to since you’ll be eliminating a lot of the foods that you’ve likely been consuming all your life. Fortunately, access to gluten-free foods in stores and restaurants, as well as an abundance of gluten free recipes available online can make it much easier so that you can enjoy this way of eating without having to go vegan or enduring deprivation and hunger. Here is a basic rundown of the foods that you’ll want to avoid. Avoid all foods and drinks that contain any form of:
- Barley (including malt and malt flavoring)
Educating yourself on all the different ways that these things are labeled and knowing how to look for hidden gluten in products is a must if you’re planning to eliminate all gluten from your diet. Fortunately, many foods are clearly labeled as being gluten free which makes shopping a whole lot easier. You can learn more about gluten sensitivity and celiac here. Adrienne is a freelance writer and author who has written extensively on all things health and fitness for more than a decade. When she’s not holed-up in her writing shed researching an article or off interviewing health professionals, she can be found frolicking around her beach town with husband and dogs in tow or splashing about the lake trying to master the stand-up paddle board.
- Considering a gluten-free diet. (April 2013). Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved on April 2, 2013, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2013/April/considering-a-gluten-free-diet?utm_source=health&utm_medium=pressrelease&utm_campaign=health0413
- Food Allergy, Intolerance, and Sensitivity. (2011). Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved on April 2, 2013, from http://www.health.harvard.edu/special_health_reports/food-allergy-intolerance-and-sensitivity#excerpt
- Mayo Clinic Staff. (December 2011). Gluten-free diet: What’s allowed, what’s not. Mayo Clinic. April 2, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530?pg=1