Gluten is a protein found in most grains including wheat, rye, barely, and oats to name a few. You can find gluten in pasta, cereal, baked goods, soups, sauces, beer, and malt.
You’ve probably heard about the gluten free diet trend made popular by celebrities such as Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, and Victoria Beckham. Or you may have seen the separate gluten-free sections in most supermarkets.
So why go gluten free? Some people have an allergy to gluten (such as the aforementioned celebs) which means their bodies do not process the protein correctly which can lead to reactions dermatitis herpetiformis (skin rash), seizures or migraines, anemia, liver and biliary tract disorders, depression or anxiety. Women can have irregular periods and even miscarriages if their allergy is severe enough. This allergy is called celiac disease but you can also have gluten intolerance and make no mistake, the two are different.
People who have removed gluten from their diets have reported benefits such as increased energy, clearer skin, and improved symptoms. But is it worth it to go gluten free without an allergy or intolerance? Studies say not really.
Some people attribute their reported weight loss to a gluten free diet however removing the protein from your diet has nothing to do with weight loss. It’s merely because people replace gluten rich foods such as cookies, pasta, and bread with fruit and vegetables (and not gluten free grains). This also helps explain the increase in energy and clear skin.
There’s not much of a benefit using this as a diet if you do not have the allergy, in fact most gluten free items have more carbohydrates than regular pasta or breads. They’re also deficient in nutrients such as fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc because GF products are made with starches such as potatoes, corn, and rice as oppose to whole grains.
It is recommended that a person with celiac or an intolerance talk to their doctor before going on a gluten free diet.