• Dr. Christa O'Leary

Can You Balance Your Gut Health With Gluten?

Gluten has become a controversial term over the past few years-highlighted by the gluten free movement. But are people cutting out gluten for medical reasons or are they just following a fad diet? Here are some things to know before you start your gluten free journey!

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. It’s what gives bread its chewy texture, pasta its springiness and cakes their moistness. Gluten consists of two subunits known as gliadin and glutenin. It’s these proteins that are largely responsible for the unique texture, nutty flavor and elasticity in dough. When flour is mixed with water, gluten forms a web-like mesh that traps air bubbles formed by carbon dioxide released by fermenting yeast. This allows dough to rise when baked.

Gluten intolerance- is it really a thing?

A gluten allergy or reaction to gluten, known medically as celiac disease has been well documented for decades and affects about 1% of the population. But what about people who choose not to eat gluten? Many claim that they feel better when they avoid it, attributing their improved health to a gluten free diet. According to current research, there isn’t any real evidence that not eating gluten is good for people who don’t have celiac disease or genuine gluten intolerance.

When did the Gluten Free Movement Begin?

A fad diet, which encouraged consumers to eat gluten free, was first introduced to the public in the 1970’s by Adele Davis. However, this fad did not become popular and widely adopted until recently. In 2011, according to a Gallup survey 58% of adults said they were trying to avoid or cut down on gluten and sales of gluten-free foods grew substantially.

The Controversy Surrounding Gluten

Why have so many people sworn off this seemingly essential food group? There’s no one answer but it may be that more people suffer from celiac disease than previously thought (around 1% of Americans). Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when the lining of the small intestine is damaged by gluten. Symptoms include diarrhea, bloating, headaches and fatigue amongst others.

The problem with following a gluten free diet is that it’s not just about avoiding food with gluten in it but also avoiding cross contamination (i.e if you are cooking gluten free pasta, don’t use the same pot to cook regular pasta). Being more aware of what you are eating is never a bad thing but for most people who have cut out gluten it may just be an excuse not to eat “healthy”.

Gluten Free Food Can Be Unhealthy Too

What some people don’t realize is that gluten free doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. Gluten free junk foods like cookies and chips may seem like a quick fix but they won’t satisfy your body or mind for long. The problem isn’t that people are eating gluten free-the problem is what they are replacing it with -bad carbs and processed foods.

Bad Carbs and Processed Foods

The gluten free diet is low carb by nature which can help you lose weight but if you’re replacing gluten with carbs from candy, chips and pastries then you aren’t doing yourself any favor! Plus these bad carbs are often more calorie dense than their gluten containing counterparts. Also, since many gluten free products are processed foods, they contain excess sugar and fat to make up for the lost flavor.

Gluten Can Be Good For You!

As with most things in life, a balanced diet is the key to success. Gluten should be an addition to a healthy lifestyle-not a substitute-and can help you maintain a healthy weight, have lots of energy and even live longer! If you’re going through the trouble of cooking gluten free meals each night for dinner then it may be worth having a chat with your doctor to see if this is really necessary.

How to Balance Your Gut Health With Gluten

After all of the research, it seems that if you don’t have a gluten intolerance then there isn’t any reason to cut out gluten. However many people find that they feel better when they avoid all grains (not just wheat) and stick to lean protein and fruits/vegetables -a practice known as the Paleo diet.

As with any food, it’s important to know the basics of what you’re eating. If you want to eat gluten free then make sure that your diet is balanced and nutritious-not full of processed foods and bad carbs! A good place to start would be by checking out this list of 20 Gluten Free Foods.

The origins of the Gluten Free Movement are still somewhat controversial. Although there are 1.4 million Americans who have celiac disease, it is unclear whether the rise in gluten free diets is due to people with celiac disease or whether quite simply, many more people think they have a gluten sensitivity than actually do.

A Balanced Diet is the Key to Success!

Remember that gluten is only one part of a healthy lifestyle. If you are going through the trouble to cook gluten free meals, it may be worth having a chat with your doctor to see if this is really necessary before starting a new diet. Whether or not you eat gluten, aim for a balanced, nutritious diet to have lots of energy and even live longer!

Tips for a Healthy Lifestyle!

Taking your time to make key decisions about your health is never a bad thing. Start by checking out this list of 20 Gluten Free Foods!

After all of the research, it seems that if you don’t have a gluten intolerance then there isn’t any reason to cut out gluten. However many people find that they feel better when they avoid all grains (not just wheat) and stick to lean protein and fruits/vegetables -a practice known as the Paleo diet.

Remember that gluten is only one part of a healthy lifestyle. If you are going through the trouble of cooking gluten free meals, it may be worth having a chat with your doctor to see if this is really necessary before starting a new diet.

Do you know if you have gluten intolerance? Call us today to schedule an appointment for food intolerance testing!

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