Is Going Gluten-Free Right for You?
Gluten has been the subject of much debate in recent years, and much of it has to do with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, both of which are conditions that cause pain, intestinal distress, and other symptoms when you eat gluten-containing foods. Some people claim that you can have similar symptoms even if you don’t have celiac disease or sensitivity, while others disagree that there’s any connection at all between gluten and these ailments. What’s the truth? Should you go gluten-free? This article will answer those questions and more.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. It’s commonly used as a thickening agent and stabilizer in many processed foods, but it’s also used by many people to bake bread, and can be found in many packaged products from soup to salad dressing. Millions of Americans consume gluten each day without any issues; however, a small portion of these people are unable to digest gluten properly due to celiac disease or an allergy.
What Happens When You’re Gluten Intolerant/Sensitive?
If you’re allergic to gluten or suffer from celiac disease, going gluten-free is a must. But if you’re not, there are certain things that happen when you remove gluten from your diet. Many people who go gluten-free experience gastrointestinal issues—upset stomachs, diarrhea and constipation—but don’t necessarily know why. According to nutritionists, it may be because they end up eating fewer whole grains and more refined carbohydrates. It could also be something else entirely. Either way, talk to your doctor about any GI complaints; he or she can help figure out what might be causing these symptoms and how best to treat them. There are many other potential causes of tummy troubles (like irritable bowel syndrome), so it’s important to rule those out before heading straight for dietary changes.
How to Start a Gluten-Free Diet?
If you’re struggling with unexplained gastrointestinal issues, gluten could be to blame. If you choose to start a gluten-free diet, follow these steps to get started:
- Consult with your doctor first.
- Clean out your pantry and make sure not to confuse gluten-free foods with other high-carb products.
- Start small and focus on whole grains first.
Remember: When it comes to eating healthy while going gluten-free, go slow so you don’t feel deprived of all those wonderful wheat treats in life!
Common Questions About Going Gluten-Free
If you’re thinking about going gluten free, it’s likely you have a lot of questions about what that entails and how to do it. Here are answers to some of the most common queries we get about living gluten free. It might be helpful to print these out, or save them on your phone so you can reference them whenever you want! In addition, always consult with your doctor or dietitian before making any dramatic changes in your diet. If you think you may have a sensitivity to gluten but aren’t sure, see a professional! Once you know where you stand on all of these factors, it will be easier to decide if a gluten free lifestyle is right for you:
Are you experiencing symptoms related to gluten consumption?
To answer that question, try an elimination diet. Eliminate gluten from your diet completely and monitor whether your symptoms resolve—if they do (and they’re not related to something else), then yes! That’s likely a sign that going gluten free would be beneficial for you.
Are you at risk for celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity?
People who are either at risk of developing celiac disease or already have been diagnosed with it should definitely go gluten free. People without either of those diagnoses can make their own choice about how strictly to adhere to a gluten free diet based on other health considerations; people with irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s Disease and ulcerative colitis, skin conditions like dermatitis herpetiformis and psoriasis, neurological disorders like epilepsy and migraines...these are just some examples.
Where do you fall on each side of those questions?
Common Reasons Why People Choose Not to Go Gluten-Free
The idea of cutting out all foods with gluten (an indigestible protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye) is a bit intimidating. Many reasons exist for those who decide to abstain from gluten, but some choose not to go completely cold turkey with their lifestyle changes. Those that opt out of going completely gluten free may still reduce their intake, but still enjoy baked goods made with traditional flours and starches. There are many people who make these types of changes with good results. If you're thinking about trying them out, consider why you're making these choices and what benefits you hope to gain from them.