The next time you're in the kitchen having a stare down with a loaf of bread, debating whether to intake the calories of another sandwich, imagine if you didn't have a choice. For some, just the idea of a slice of bread can trigger memories of pain and discomfort.
Who Needs a Gluten-free Diet
Approximately one in every 100 Americans will be diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine whose symptoms can include stomach pain, constipation and diarrhea. This genetic condition is described as the immune system attacking and damaging the gastrointestinal tract, which hinders the absorption of vitamins and minerals. The only effective treatment presently known is partaking in a gluten-free diet, which eliminates excessive amounts of wheat, barley and rye.
However, recently celebrities such as Kim Kardashian and Lady Gaga have begun to advocate a gluten-free diet for those who aren't celiac, claiming it helped them lose weight. Since a celebrity said it, it wasn't long before the newest diet was born. But not many healthcare professionals were buying in.
When fully committed to and executed correctly, it's true a gluten-free diet can actually improve your overall health. A study conducted in Brazil indicated a gluten-free diet reduces adiposity, inflammation and insulin resistance. Studies are still ongoing but there is also the possibility a gluten-free diet boosts the digestive system, gives you more energy, clearer skin and may help a child pay attention in school.
Oddly enough, the one benefit of a gluten-free diet that's been disproved thus far is the very thing that made it so popular. According to a study published by Arizona State University, a gluten-free diet cannot be directly linked to weight loss in individuals with a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.
Positive Changes to Consider
The reason many people have felt they were losing weight is because they cut out junk foods containing high levels of gluten such as cookies, donuts and chips and replaced them with fresh fruit and vegetables. To complicate things even further, most processed gluten-free snacks actually contain higher amounts of fats and sugars than traditional sweets.
The same study from Arizona State does give some credence to the idea, suggesting following this type of diet could improve someone's body mass index (BMI). However, this isn't always the case. A study published by in the American Journal Gastroenterol involved 369 adults with celiac disease who followed a strict gluten-free diet for an average of 2.8 years. Of the 81 initially overweight or obese participants, 22 (27 percent) actually gained weight.
The easiest way to begin the transition from a traditional diet to gluten-free is to substitute wheat and rye based products with healthier grains such as quinoa and millet. However, this will not be the only transition needed in order to reap the full benefits. If you decide to/need to eliminate gluten from your diet, be sure to read labels carefully when choosing processed foods.
If you're wondering if you have a sensitivity to gluten or wheat, the best method is to have your doctor perform a blood test. It's always best to consult with your doctor before beginning any new diet.
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