Is a Gluten-Free Diet Better for You?

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Is a Gluten-Free Diet Better for You?

Flour in a bag on the table and spikelets.

Flour in a bag on the table and spikelets.

Every couple of years or so, a hot new buzzword emerges in the health and diet industry. For the past couple of years, “gluten free” has been the latest trend. Gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, has been identified as a dietary nemesis. Could a gluten-free diet help you reach your health and weight loss goals?

First of all, a very real autoimmune disorder called celiac disease does indeed affect about one percent of our population. These people cannot consume gluten in any amount, without suffering serious health consequences. Obviously, if you have celiac disease, then a gluten-free diet is going to help you manage your symptoms and reclaim control over your health.

It does appear that some people are sensitive to gluten, without being completely intolerant to it. These people can eat gluten without incurring permanent damage, but they might experience some symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, or fatigue. Reducing or eliminating gluten in these instances can help to manage symptoms.

As for everyone else, could going gluten-free be beneficial? And why do some people, who don’t suffer from celiac disease or medically identifiable gluten sensitivity, report feeling better when they eliminate gluten from their diets?

For those who don’t have a medical need to eliminate gluten, the benefits of a gluten-free diet are probably linked to the elimination of processed foods. Since gluten is found in most flours, you can see how a gluten-free diet would lead to elimination of most packaged junk foods. Those who adopt a gluten-free lifestyle are more likely to consume fresh fruits and vegetables, avoid high-glycemic junk foods, ditch the fast-food drive-throughs, and cook meals from scratch (because this lends you greater control over your diet).

All of those actions are indeed healthier choices, and will probably result in feeling better and perhaps even losing weight. But that doesn’t mean that all gluten is bad. Some whole grains contain essential nutrients that you actually need to stay healthy. It’s just that overall, we tend to consume more products made from white flour rather than whole grains, and we also tend to eat way too many of those foods, in exclusion to everything else.

The bottom line is that yes, if you have celiac disease, you should certainly eliminate all gluten from your diet. If you have a medically identifiable gluten sensitivity, you should probably avoid gluten to manage your symptoms, although a small amount here or there is unlikely to carry any serious effects. And everyone else can adopt a gluten-free lifestyle if they choose, but you can probably reap the same effects by simply reducing processed, packaged junk foods and eating more fresh fruits and veggies.

For more information on nutrition and weight loss, call our office to schedule an appointment. We specialize in helping our patients identify the nutrition plan that is right for them.