Going Gluten Free May Ease Uncomfortable Digestive Symptoms
Would you like to have more energy and get a better night’s sleep? Want to put an end to gas, bloating, and indigestion? How about losing weight more easily? Try going gluten free.
What Is Gluten, and Why Should I Avoid It?
Gluten is a protein-based substance found in wheat and other cereal grains like rye, spelt, and barley. It makes dough elastic and help foods maintain their shape; gluten is the reason that bread and baked products made with grain flours are chewy. Gluten isn’t necessarily bad for everyone, but for people who have any degree of gluten intolerance, it can lead to many very uncomfortable symptoms.
Celiac Disease, the Most Severe Form of Gluten Intolerance
The most well known form of gluten intolerance is celiac disease, which effects about 1% of the US population. Gluten triggers a powerful immune response in these people and can make them very ill. In extreme cases, celiac disease can damage the intestines and make them incapable of absorbing nutrients from food.
Celiac disease is relatively difficult to diagnose because the symptoms vary considerably; about one third of all people diagnosed with the condition experience diarrhea, but about 20% have constipation. Around half of the people with celiac disease lose weight, but about 10% experience the opposite and are actually obese. Other symptoms include acid reflux and heartburn, joint pain, headaches, fatigue, itchy skin, balance problems, or numbness and tingling in the feet and hands.
The primary form of treatment for Celiac disease is to follow a strict gluten free diet. In most cases, eating only gluten free foods completely eliminates the reaction that gives rise to the symptoms.
Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity – a Milder Form of Gluten Intolerance
Science has recently identified a milder form of gluten intolerance, which creates many of the same symptoms as celiac disease, but to a lesser degree. The condition isn’t entirely understood, but it’s estimated that as many as 18 million Americans are sensitive to gluten. These people generally experience gas, bloating, diarrhea, and fatigue after eating wheat or grain products, and the only effective treatment is a gluten free diet. This includes eliminating breads and baked goods, or replacing them with gluten free bread and gluten free desserts.
I Haven’t Been Diagnosed, so Why Eat Gluten Free?
The only real way to tell if a gluten free diet will benefit you is to give it a try. The basic instructions are to completely avoid wheat in any form, but it would be wise to check some of the many websites that provide comprehensive lists of foods to avoid; you might be surprised to find that beer, soy sauce, chicken broth, and even some veggie burgers and spice blends contain gluten. You can also find many websites that feature gluten free recipes.
If you decide to try going gluten free, give it a trial of at least a week and carefully monitor the results. You might be pleasantly surprised at how good you feel.