It is necessary for people with celiac disease or gluten allergies to follow a strict gluten-free diet plan, as it can create health complications otherwise. However, there are several benefits of eating gluten-free, even if you don’t have any gluten intolerance.
Following a gluten-free diet will relieve all your digestive issues, such as bloating and stomach pain. Besides, it can also reduce chronic inflammation, mainly from joints. It will also improve your bone health, skin, and hair by aiding better calcium absorption.
If you follow a gluten-free diet plan, it will also improve your energy and will reduce brain fog. But is that all? We are now going to discuss all the possible upsides of following this diet plan. Read on!
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Who Should Go Gluten Free?
Before we start talking about the benefits of eating gluten-free, you must have a clear understanding of who should avoid any gluten-rich food in their diets. There are four major categories of people that must avoid gluten.
- Celiac Disease: It is an autoimmune disease where your body treats gluten as an external threat to your digestive system. And to eliminate that threat, your immune system overestimates the gluten proteins and attacks them. As collateral damage, your gut will also get attacked by the immune system destroying the inner linings.
- Gluten Ataxia: It is also an autoimmune disorder similar to celiac disease. However, your immune system will not attack your digestive system but the nervous system instead. People having gluten ataxia may get various neurological symptoms after consuming gluten-rich food. It can also disturb your balance and coordination.
- Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity: Although NCGS is quite controversial as no study can give solid proof of the existence of this health disorder, it is believed that more than 13% of people have this issue. People having NCGC will not test positive in a celiac test but will feel the same health issues, such as stomach pain and bloating, after consuming gluten.
- Wheat Allergies: Various kinds of wheat allergies may trigger in response to proteins found in wheat grains. Initially, it will cause headaches, breathing difficulty, nasal congestion, and swelling inside the mouth. And in severe cases, wheat allergy can also cause anaphylaxis.
Besides these four primary groups, you also should not consume any gluten-rich product if you get allergic reactions from other food grains, such as barley or rye. It is better to consult a doctor as soon as you feel any discomfort after eating any gluten-rich food.
Health Benefits of Gluten-Free Diet
Following a particular diet plan has its own pros and cons. Although there are many benefits of eating gluten-free, we will concentrate on the top five benefits.
- Relieve Digestive Symptoms: People having gluten allergy feel various digestive issues after consuming gluten, such as stomach pain, bloating, gas, fatigue, and even diarrhea. Following a gluten-free diet can ease these digestive symptoms, especially for people having celiac or NCGS.
- Reduce Chronic Inflammation: Inflammation is a natural response of the human body to fight and heal infections. But it becomes chronic if the inflammation stays for months or even years. Following a gluten-free diet can reduce the inflammation markers, such as the antibody level. It can also eliminate any chance of gut lining damage due to immune response.
- Improves Bone Health: Due to the malabsorption of vital nutrients due to a damaged gut lining, people with celiac disease often experience severe calcium deficiencies. This situation can increase the risk of bone damage and can also cause other severe issues like osteoporosis and osteopenia. Following a gluten-free diet can significantly improve the mineral density in bones.
- Boost Energy: People having celiac disease often experience brain fog and sluggishness. This issue can also attract forgetfulness and concentration issues. And all these symptoms are mainly triggered due to the malabsorption of vital nutrients like iron and potassium. Following a gluten-free diet will also boost your energy level.
- Help To Lose Weight: Following a gluten-free diet will naturally eliminate high-calorie processed foods from your daily routine. It will also eliminate calorie-rich savory items, such as cakes and pastries, from your diet. So, a gluten-free diet can remove a lot of calories from your daily meal plan, which can help you to lose some weight.
Benefits of Gluten-Free Diet for People without Health Complications
A gluten-free diet is not just beneficial for people with gluten allergies or celiac disease; it is equally beneficial for common people for many reasons. And here, we will talk about the top five benefits for people without any health complications.
- Reduce Headache: People having gluten intolerance often feel extreme headaches and migraines as the brain and gut are connected. Even if you don’t have any intolerance, studies found that you will start experiencing fewer headaches once you start following a gluten-free diet.
- Improves Your Skin: Severe skin issues, such as acne, eczema, and plaque psoriasis, can happen due to the gluten content in food items. Following a gluten-free diet will naturally improve your skin and make it healthier. It also restores the moisture and the oil balance of your skin.
- Heals Achy Joints: Consuming any gluten-rich food can trigger your immune response, which will also increase the inflammation level in your body. So, following a gluten-free diet can effectively improve the inflammation in your joints by suppressing the immune response.
- Slows Down Hair Loss: If you stop consuming gluten, your small intestine will start to heal, thus helping you to absorb more nutrients and minerals from food. Rebalancing the nutrients in your system can effectively eliminate frustrating hair loss. You’ll also regain the natural shine of your hair.
- Elevates Energy Level: Consuming gluten-rich food can damage the inner lining of your stomach and small intestine, thus resulting in the malabsorption of vital nutrients. And for that, you may experience less energy. Following a gluten-free diet plan can effectively restore your energy level.
Note: There is very little evidence that following a gluten-free diet can have any other health benefits than the ones we have mentioned above. However, this diet can still be healthy for everyone if you have a proper food choice that can complement your daily lifestyle.
Downsides of Gluten Free Diet
We have already talked enough about the possible benefits of eating gluten-free. However, there are some possible downsides as well! So, before you start following a gluten-free diet plan, you must also have a clear idea about the cons.
- Causes Nutritional Deficiency: Gluten-free diet contains less fiber, iron, calcium, and zinc. Most gluten-free foods are extremely low in B vitamins, such as folate (B9) and cobalamin (B12). Besides, those are also rich in saturated fat, carbohydrates, and sodium. Following a gluten-free diet can cause severe nutritional deficiencies in the human body.
- Triggers Constipation: Following a gluten-free diet plan will naturally eliminate almost all sources of fiber, such as bread and other wheat-based food items. If you have fiber deficiency, it can trigger improper bowel movements, thus causing constipation. Food will also take more time to pass through your GI tract if it doesn’t have enough dietary fibers.
- Extremely Costly: Some of the recent findings shows that gluten-free alternatives can be 2.5X more expensive than their gluten-based counterparts. It mainly happens as the manufacturing cost is much higher for gluten-free products. Besides, gluten-free products go through stricter testing to avoid any chance of cross-contamination.
It is also quite tough to socialize if you follow a gluten-free diet, as you may miss out on most parties and family gatherings due to food restrictions.
Beginner’s Guide to Gluten-Free Diet – Common Foods to Avoid
Besides wheat bran and wheat flour, anyone having gluten intolerance must also avoid spelt, durum, Kamut, and semolina. You must also avoid other gluten-rich crops, such as barley, rye, malt, and triticale. Moreover, you must also stay away from brewer’s yeast.
Some of the food items that you must strictly avoid while following a gluten-free diet plan are as follows.
- All types of wheat-based bread and pizza bases
- All types of wheat-based pasta
- Most baked items, including cakes, cookies, and muffins
- Most cereals, until it is labeled as gluten-free
- Almost all snacks, including candies, crackers, muesli bars, roasted nuts, chips, and pretzels
- All types of wheat or barley-based beverages, including beer
- Any type of broth unless it is labeled as gluten-free
You must also refrain from consuming soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and teriyaki sauce to avoid gluten consumption through cross-contamination. Besides, you shouldn’t consume marinades, spice mixes, and salad dressings unless those are labeled as gluten-free.
Even if you ignore the expenses of following a gluten-free diet, there are several other issues you’ll still witness while following this food plan. But here are some tips to save you!
- Always Check Food Labels: You may not know, but many common food items contain a heavy amount of gluten, as those are primarily made with crops such as wheat, malt, barley, semolina, and farina. So, you must check the labels of all food items to know if they come with the official “gluten-free” label. But remember, gluten-free food doesn’t mean it is healthy, as many gluten-free food products are high in saturated fats, processed sugar, and preservatives.
- Bring Your Own Food: Are you planning to attend any family gatherings or potluck parties? Then you must bring your own home-cooked food to avoid any chance of gluten consumption. Besides, if you plan a road trip or a weekly gateway, you must keep a good number of gluten-free snacks with you.
- Use Separate Plates And Utensils: Gluten-induced health issues can be caused by cross-contamination as well. So, if not all members of your family follow a gluten-free diet plan, it will be wise to use separate plates and kitchen utensils to cook your meals.
From an improved digestive system to better hair, there are many benefits of eating gluten-free. However, there are many possible downsides as well, such as malnutrition and improper bowel movement. So, you must calibrate the benefits and drawbacks before following this food plan.
It is even better if you consult your doctor or dietician before you start following any particular diet plan. They are the right people who can tell if a gluten-free diet is suitable for you or not!