Gluten-free foods are undeniably one of the top trends in the restaurant industry, and are growing more popular. But is eating gluten-free actually better for your health, or is it just another fad?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley (and their various forms) that is best known for giving baked goods their elastic, doughy texture. But what’s the big deal?
There are a few types of illness associated with consuming gluten. When people with celiac disease consume gluten (around 1% of population), the lining of the intestines are damaged, which causes long-term damage to the digestive tract and many other symptoms.
A lesser-known issue in approximately 2-6% of the population is non-celiac gluten sensitivity, where gluten may produce similar digestive discomforts, but the mechanisms are not well understood.
A wheat allergy, found in about 0.1% of the population, causes a serious immune reaction to the proteins in gluten, which can be life-threatening like other allergies.
Maybe you don’t have any of these conditions, but it’s still possible that you could benefit from reducing or eliminating gluten in your diet.
You may not have celiac disease, but many people are gluten-sensitive to some degree. Some common symptoms of gluten sensitivity can include: abdominal bloating, stomach pain, indigestion, gas, diarrhea, headaches, skin rashes, brain fog and muscle/joint cramps. Over time we start to consider these symptoms a normal part of our life, but you can take back control!
What should you do if you suspect you’re sensitive to gluten? Try incorporating more whole, naturally gluten-free foods into your diet, such as fruits and veggies, plant-based proteins like beans, nuts and seeds, lean meats such as poultry and fish, dairy (if tolerated), and gluten-free whole grains. You should always consult your doctor, to rule out any other illness.
Limit the consumption of highly-processed, gluten-free packaged foods (such as breads, cookies and baked goods) which often substitute gluten for fat, sugar and preservatives – a big no-no! Instead, try eating whole gluten-free grains such as rice, quinoa, millet, sweet potato, amaranth, buckwheat and nut flours.
Eating gluten-free is much more than a trend; for many people it greatly improves their quality of life, and for others it can be lifesaving.