Gluten-free labels are popping up on store shelves. Most people are aware that gluten is something that Celiac disease sufferers must avoid. If Celiac isn’t something you have to deal with, you may walk on by, not knowing what gluten is and how it affects the body. Just because you have not been diagnosed with Celiac disease, don’t be so quick to dismiss the idea of going gluten-free and wheat-free.
So, what is Gluten? Gluten is a protein that is found in grains and foods processed from wheat, barely, rye, and spelt. It is used as a glue-like substance to add elasticity to foods like bread. Gluten is found in many processed foods, crackers, breads, sweets, sauces, salad dressings, and more.
When consumed in the diet, gluten can cause an autoimmune reaction in the small intestine. This can cause major problems for some, leading to a diagnosis of Celiac disease.
According to the National Institute of Health, Celiac diseases may possible affect as many as 3 million Americans. Moreover, research estimates that 18 million Americans suffer from what is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Many of these people do not even know they have such a sensitivity. Those suffering from either Celiac or Gluten sensitivity experience symptoms of malabsorption of nutrients, nausea, and diarrhea to name a few.
In his popular book, Wheat Belly, Dr. William Davis conveys how eliminating wheat in one’s diet, even with no previously diagnosed sensitivity, will lead to overall health improvements. Others argue Davis' claim stating that there is no reason to eliminate wheat products from the diet, unless diagnosed with an ailment like Celiac. However, record numbers of Americans have begun cutting out wheat and gluten from their diets and claim to be reaping the benefits. Davis and those who follow him report health improvements in digestion, weight loss, improved mood, clearer thinking, less joint pain, and more.
Going gluten-free or wheat-free forces one to read labels and be mindful of what types of food are being consumed. This may allow for one to opt for more whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and gluten-free grains like rice and quinoa. Also, there will be a noticeable reduction in consumption of processed foods, as most of the products in one’s cupboard or panty are most likely derived from wheat.
Sure, making a change in one’s diet can be a pain and may even be costly. However, with the supporters of a wheat-free and gluten-free lifestyle claiming they feel their best in years, it seems like this is something worth trying. After all, a more mindful dietary experience filled with more vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, and lean proteins has the makings of better nutrition.