Going gluten free has become a massive diet trend in the past five or so years. Before then, people hardly knew what gluten was. Now, companies have gone to market with the sole objective of creating gluten free alternatives. Restaurants boast about gluten free menu items. And a significant number of Americans have switched to a gluten free diet for various reasons.
People switch to a gluten free diet for several reasons, including weight loss, to feel more energetic, because they suffer from celiac disease, and as a result of misconceptions about conditions that gluten can cause. While many of these may be excellent reasons to switch to a gluten free diet, the only reason to cut out gluten that is backed by science is to treat celiac disease.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition where consuming gluten in any form can cause serious harm, like long-term organ damage. Some people claim to have Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, but studies so far have not confirmed the specifics of this condition and many of those affected haven’t ruled out celiac disease.
When someone without celiac disease decides to switch to a gluten free diet, not only is it not necessary for them to receive the benefits they seek, but it may also be harmful. Cutting gluten from your diet can make it difficult to get essential vitamins and nutrients that your body needs. While gluten free diets may help with weight loss or energy levels, there are more effective ways to achieve these results.
What is gluten?
As we explained before, gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, spelt, and barley and hybrid grains. This protein contains glutenin and gliadin. Gliadin is responsible for the negative side effects of gluten for people diagnosed with celiac disease.
Why do people go gluten free?
People go gluten free for a variety of reasons, but the only reason backed by science is as a treatment for managing their celiac disease.
People diagnosed with celiac disease experience a lot of negative side effects when they ingest gluten, even when they eat something as small as a crouton. Side effects include:
- Drastic Weight Loss
- Excessive Gas
- Skin Rashes
For people with celiac disease, going gluten free isn’t a trendy new way to lose weight, it’s a strict diet that affects what they eat, the medication they take, and even the hygiene products that they use.
4 Risks when going gluten free
People without celiac disease who choose to go gluten free open themselves up to risks. Here are some risks that people take when they unnecessarily switch to a gluten free diet:
1. Lack of Fiber
Whole wheat bread is an excellent source of dietary fiber. By cutting out something that is good for them in appropriate portions, gluten free dieters choose to forgo the benefits of whole wheat products.
Other foods can provide these fibers, but generally, none are so rich in fiber as whole wheat. It would take a lot more effort to make up for the lack of these fibers in your diet.
By making sure that you eat plenty of fiber, you will have better overall gut health and receive antioxidant, anti-inflammatory benefits. These benefits can help reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
2. Increased Type 2 Diabetes Risk
In a study involving healthy men and women, research showed that when participants ate gluten, they were less likely to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Fiber and other vitamins and nutrients found in healthy foods containing gluten proved to be beneficial to the overall health of these participants.
People who voluntarily switch to a gluten free diet give up foods that are important to maintaining a balanced diet.
While there are definitely unhealthy foods that contain gluten, there are also healthy foods that give your body the nutrients it needs to function properly. Avoiding gluten entirely is not a rational dietary choice unless there is a medical need.
3. Lack of Essential Vitamins and Nutrients
Similar to the “Lack of Fiber” point, going gluten free without a legitimate cause can result in vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. Foods with gluten in them can be a great source of:
- Vitamin B
- Folic Acid
Many people with celiac disease take a gluten free multivitamin to try and make up for this deficit. These people also need to be very diligent about finding alternative ways to get the much needed vitamins and nutrients.
Switching to a gluten free diet by choice means that dieters also need to be mindful of what they eat. This makes it more difficult to maintain a balanced diet, which may lead to completely unnecessary added stress.
4. Weight Gain
Many people voluntarily switch to a gluten free diet because they want to lose weight and be healthier. However, just because something is gluten free does not mean that it’s healthy.
In fact, many gluten-free baked items like cookies or brownies are higher in calories and sugar than the gluten full counterparts. Also, a lot of junk food that we indulge in is already gluten free. For example, french fries and candy bars are not off-limits.
Because people are tricked into thinking they’re making a “healthier” decision when they choose a gluten free diet, they don’t take the time to check labels and nutrition facts. This can lead to weight gain and unhealthy choices.
A gluten free diet is essential for someone living with celiac disease. Going gluten free otherwise may be detrimental to your health. Instead, focus on making healthier gluten choices. Eat whole wheat bread instead of white bread, for instance.
If you think you may have celiac disease, consider ordering an at-home blood test from imaware. The imaware celiac disease test kit is over 95% accurate. Order the kit and complete the test at home in minutes instead of spending hours in the doctors’ office. The results will tell you whether you have celiac disease as well as the likelihood that you will be diagnosed with it in the future.
Once you complete the test, you will know once and for all whether a gluten free diet is right for you.