We get a lot of questions from clients about going gluten-free. It’s no surprise, given the sudden popularity of gluten-free living. We all know someone who has sworn off gluten, and more and more grocery stores are stocking gluten-free products. But is a gluten-free diet right for everyone? We answer your most burning questions below.
What is gluten, anyway?
Gluten is one of the main proteins found in wheat, barley and rye. Therefore, anyone going on a gluten-free diet must avoid all products and food containing wheat, barley and rye and their derivatives as well as wheat additives in processed foods. Many people are surprised to find that wheat is in virtually every processed food out there, from frozen foods to “health” bars to breakfast cereals to chips to salad dressings.
Who should consider a gluten-free diet?
Those who have celiac disease, are gluten intolerant or have a wheat allergy, as diagnosed by a doctor. For most of us, gluten is not an issue. According to WebMD, experts estimate that about 1% of Americans have celiac disease, a condition caused by an abnormal immune response to gluten that can damage the lining of the small intestine and lead to significant issues with malabsorption and malnutrition.
Celiac sufferers may experience severe symptoms, including diarrhea, anemia, bone pain and severe rash. Others who experience sensitivity to gluten without actually having celiac disease may have similar symptoms, but without the gut damage. The only way to know if you have celiac disease is to be tested.
But can a gluten-free diet benefit the rest of us?
Here’s the thing: we believe the reason so many converts have claimed significant health benefits in going gluten-free may be more simple than even they realize. In their efforts to sidestep gluten, dieters often end up trading highly processed foods (also containing huge amounts of fats, salt, sugar and additives) for fresh food made from more healthy ingredients. And therein lies the answer! When you pursue a diet filled with fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, nuts, beans and legumes, you’re bound to feel better, lose weight and improve your overall health.
And guess what? It doesn’t mean you have to completely cut out gluten. If you aren’t experiencing any sensitivity issues, we say go ahead and enjoy that sandwich on rye, a luscious grain bowl with barley and, yes, the occasional buttery croissant. So long as you say sayonara to overly processed, packaged foods and turn to fresh and minimally processed ingredients instead, you’ll be just fine.