Surprising Facts You Probably Didn’t Know about Going Gluten Free
Going gluten free is all the rage, but what does this dietary modification actually do for you? Our experts break down the positive and potentially negative impacts that going gluten free can have on your health.
People have been going gluten-free for a number of reasons. Individuals living with Celiac disease rely on the elimination of gluten, as a gluten-free diet (GFD) is the only successful treatment to alleviate unpleasant signs and symptoms and prevent further health risks. Others strip gluten-containing foods related to sensitivities and intolerances, conditions without a true celiac diagnosis. The rest of gluten-free goers more than likely jumped on the gluten-free train within the past few years due to its high popularity in the health world. Regardless of the GFD purpose, there are more than likely surprising positive or negative affects you didn't know about going gluten-free.
Negative Effects of Going Gluten-Free
Eliminating gluten also eliminates other essential nutrients from the diet. Wheat, barley, rye, and oats are the prominent sources of gluten and contain valuable vitamins and minerals. Iron, niacin, folate, and several B vitamins can be compromised after eliminating those notorious gluten sources. Deficiencies can result in anemia, energy loss, diarrhea, and several others.
Fiber aids in digestion and reduces the chance for constipation. Fiber has also been shown to reduce total cholesterol. Fiber sources include fruits and vegetables and are commonly found in the gluten-containing wheat and oats. The recommended fiber intake is 25 grams per day for women and 38 grams per day for men. Unfortunately, the general population does not consume adequate fiber, with only 15 grams being consumed on average. Taking away a high-fiber source can reduce its intake even further.
Following a GFD can be tough due to gluten being found in a wide variety of foods, even disguised in sauces and salad dressings. At the beginning, successful elimination can be daunting and stressful. Social events are oftentimes based around on foods and beverages. Trying to find gluten-free options or taking your own GFD to outings can be overwhelming and maybe even a little embarrassing from the get-go. The good news, food companies and restaurants have taken tremendous steps in proving gluten-free alternatives and options.
Positive Effects of Going Gluten-Free
To end on more of a positive note, following a GFD can be beneficial. Individuals living with Celiac disease benefit the most. Short-term symptoms include abdominal bloating and pain, gas, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue. Although the short-term signs and symptoms following gluten ingestion are unpleasant, long-term exposure can create harmful health risks such as osteoporosis (bone weakening and loss) and small bowel cancers.
Gluten research is ever-evolving. With more research regarding gluten, suggested health benefits are arising. Although further research should be conducted for solidified recommendations, positive effects of going gluten-free suggests the reduction of autistic behaviors and in depressive symptoms.
Parents with children diagnosed with autism report reduced autistic behaviors when implementing a casein and gluten-free diet. Casein is a milk protein found in dairy products while gluten is the protein found in a variety of grains. Some parents report reduced behaviors when eliminating casein while others look to gluten for reduced behaviors. Researchers claim the improved behaviors may be related to a change in diet with healthful foods of lean proteins, vegetables, and fruits while reducing sweets. None-the-less, researchers seek further studies for conclusive evidence despite the parental claims.
When living with Celiac disease or a sensitivity and intolerance, the associated signs and symptoms can be stressful to deal with and lead to feelings of depression. Following a gluten-free diet can alleviate unpleasant signs and symptoms thus reducing the potential for triggered psychological symptoms of depression. Researchers suggest individuals may feel better as more of a psychological response rather than intestinal.
All effects aside…
The intentions of following a GFD varies from person-to-person. Regardless of their goals, negative and positive health effects can arise after eliminating gluten. When contemplating to go gluten-free, identify whether or not it accommodates your lifestyle. If following a GFD is necessary or seems suitable, it is important to consult with a dietitian. Their expertise can guide you to gluten-free food options and fill in the nutritional gaps after eliminating such a wide-spread food item.
Williams K. How helpful is the casein-gluten-free diet? Autism Speaks. Available at: https://www.autismspeaks.org/node/112986.