The intake of gluten has occurred for centuries, although the harmful connotations have just now recently surfaced and spread like wildfire. Individuals have jumped on the “gluten-free” bandwagon related to its attribution to achieve greater health. But can you actually benefit from gluten’s removal?
What Is a Gluten-Free Diet?
A gluten-free diet is as it sounds, eliminating gluten from the diet. Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, barley, and rye and their associated products such as wheat pasta and rye bread. While oats and other grains are gluten-free in nature, they may become contaminated with gluten-containing sources during food processing and manufacturing. While simply stripping away such sources seems like a relatively simple task, successfully doing so may be a bit trickier. While the Food and Drug Administration works hard to affirm gluten-free products through tight regulations during food processing, cross-contamination can likely occur in restaurants and at home. Additionally, individuals need to be aware of hidden sources of gluten, including vinegars, gravies, dressings, sauces, and medications.
Gluten-Free Diet Benefits
Considering the knowledge and skills needed to successfully eliminate gluten, you may be wondering if the effort outweighs potential benefits. The benefits of stripping gluten from the diet is particularly in the presence of a true Celiac disease diagnosis or potentially a gluten sensitivity or intolerance. Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the body perceives gluten as harmful and foreign, therefore attacking itself as self-defense. In a nutshell, the ingestion of gluten causes damage to the intestine and cascades a series of unpleasant events that vary between children and adults.
Obtaining a biopsy of the intestinal lining is the golden standard for diagnosing Celiac disease, though individuals may still experience related signs and symptoms without a confirmed diagnosis. Eliminating gluten is the only known treatment for Celiac disease and absolutely imperative to preserve the health of the digestive system and the rest of the body. Along with its elimination in the indicated conditions, following a gluten-free diet may be beneficial for individuals with irritable bowel disease and a wheat allergy, though a healthcare provider can help direct you to the best treatment and management.
Potential Concerns and Considerations
Despite its elimination for medical management or even based on personal preference, following a gluten-free diet should be warned with caution. Although the whole grain sources carry gluten, they also provide valuable nutrients, including fiber, B vitamins, folic acid, iron, phosphorous, copper, and magnesium. Ultimately, eliminating gluten may cause nutritional deficiencies if not obtaining the nutrients found in wheat, barley, and rye from other food sources or supplements. When prescribed to a gluten-free diet, a dietitian or physician can help assist in tailoring a diet best for you, especially in efforts to reduce the risk of developing a deficiency. Interesting, too, new research suggests individuals following a gluten-free diet might increase risk of arsenic and mercury exposure, toxic metals shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, neurological problems, and cancer.
If desiring additional guidance, bistroMD offers a gluten-free diet option along with nutritional assistance from a registered dietitian to best meet your personal needs. Balance by bistroMD also offers an a la carte meal delivery service with gluten free options. Additionally, you can follow a gluten-free diet with much more ease with these tips that will change your life!