The Gluten Free Diet: What You Need to Know

The Gluten Free Diet: What You Need to Know

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Going gluten-free has drawn a lot of attention in recent years, despite the fact that celiac disease cases are not increasing. Celebrities endorsed the gluten-free diet and now people are following it for non-medical purposes. There are several purported benefits to gluten free diet for those who do not have celiac diseasewhich made this diet attractive to the masses.

What is a Gluten Free Diet?

Certain conditions, like celiac disease, can make an individual sensitive to a protein called gluten. For people who have gluten-sensitivity, the solution is pretty straightforward. Adopt a diet devoid of gluten. In other words, adopt a Gluten Free Diet which, to this day, is the only effective treatment for celiac disease.

To understand the gluten free diet, we have to understand what gluten is. The most notable gluten-containing foods are wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. Gluten is a naturally occurring protein among grains. In fact, corn, rice, and quinoa contain gluten. However, they do not cause adverse effects on those who have celiac disease and other non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Gluten is responsible for providing elasticity and moisture to a food item. They are used as an additive to some processed foods due to this property. A lot of food items may contain the aforementioned gluten-containing grains or their derivatives. Following a gluten free diet plan turns out to be quite challenging as you’ll risk missing out on fibres and vitamins.

In recent years, gluten free products have ballooned in numbers as their demand continues to rise. Several factors have contributed to the increase in the popularity of the gluten free diet. Most of the hype is brought about by celebrities claiming that they experienced the gluten free diet benefits. Those who are following the gluten free diet for nonmedical reasons believe that it can help them lose weight, have a less-bloated belly, and gain better focus as endorsed by their influencers. But you have to ask, does the gluten free diet live up to the hype? Does it really help in weight loss, improve gastrointestinal health, athletic performance, and overall health?

Benefits of Gluten Free Diet

1. Celiac disease

The gluten free diet was originally intended for those who are sensitive to gluten. One condition that makes a person sensitive to gluten is Celiac disease. In this condition, the consumption of gluten will trigger an immune response within the afflicted individual. This immune response will damage the lining of the intestinal walls which could lead to the appearance of symptoms such as diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, gas, nausea. Other symptoms that are not related to the digestive system such as anaemia, osteoporosis, headaches, and joint pains may appear as well. There are cases where noticeable symptoms would not appear. Although this is the case, those who do not exhibit any symptoms are still at risk for other long-term health issues.

When you are diagnosed with Celiac disease adopting a gluten-free diet would oftentimes lead to quick positive results. For some individuals who are suffering from Celiac disease, excluding gluten from their diet would immediately lead to significant improvements in their symptoms. Despite this, it may take up to six months to more for the digestive system to completely recover from the damaging effects of gluten. Several factors would affect the digestive system’s healing rate. Factors like age and the extent of damage are the most prominent.

Those who are recently diagnosed with Celiac disease are prone to commit mistakes and would often consume gluten without intending to do so. In cases such as this, the negative effects of gluten are fast-acting and the affected individual would immediately experience symptoms. Although symptoms aren’t always present, this does not mean that the gut is not damaged again. This just goes to show how important and beneficial a gluten free diet is to those who have Celiac disease.

2. Gluten Ataxia

Gluten ataxia is a non-celiac gluten sensitivity condition. Those who have this condition will experience symptoms of ataxia like trouble speaking, poor coordination and balance, and difficulty using arms and legs whenever they would consume gluten. Like Celiac disease, they would benefit greatly from avoiding gluten.

3. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity

Some cases of Non-celiac gluten sensitivity or NCGS aren’t as specific as Gluten Ataxia. Sometimes the symptoms may mimic other digestive issues or may exhibit puzzling symptoms that are unrelated to the digestive system. NCGS may present with the following symptoms; abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhoea, depression, brain fog, fatigue, and joint pain. Not all cases of NCGS is life long. There are cases where those who have the disease would become free of the illness after a year or two.

4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome

Although further studies are needed, there are pieces of evidence that support the idea that a Gluten-Free diet can be beneficial for those who have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The Gluten-Free diet can provide relief from the symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome which include diarrhea, stomach pain, gas, and constipation.

5. Fibromyalgia

In a recent study, researchers believe that fibromyalgia has symptoms that seem to overlap with the symptoms of NCGS. Since fibromyalgia is a condition of unknown cause and has no effective treatment available, they theorized that maybe a gluten-free diet may help with the treatment of fibromyalgia. This study took 16 months to finish. With all participants following the gluten free diet closely. At the end of the study, all of the 20 patients reported that their chronic pain improved dramatically. Thus, the researchers concluded that gluten sensitivity may be an underlying cause of fibromyalgia and that a gluten-free diet may help in treating it.

6. Endometriosis

Like fibromyalgia, the aetiology or the cause of Endometriosis-related chronic pelvic pain is still unknown. Thus, a group of researchers sought to find out whether a gluten-free diet may have a positive effect on endometriosis-related pain or not. A total of 207 patients participated in the study. All of them have endometriosis-related chronic pelvic pain. Their pain levels were assessed before they went through with the gluten-free diet. Once that was done, they followed the gluten-free diet for 12 months. At the end of the study, 75% of the patients reported better pain levels after following the diet for 12 months. Thus, the results of this study support the idea that a gluten free diet may reduce pain related to endometriosis.

7. Rheumatoid Arthritis

There’s still insufficient evidence to establish the positive effects of a gluten-free diet on Rheumatoid arthritis. However, one study did show that a gluten-free vegan diet may have anti-inflammatory effects that can help prevent arthritis. In this randomized study, 66 patients followed a gluten-free vegan diet for a certain duration. At the end of the study, the researchers observed a reduction in the activity of their participants’ Rheumatoid antibodies.

8. Weight loss

When weight loss is observed in those who are following a gluten-free diet. It is not the absence of gluten that led to weight loss. Instead, it is the avoidance of high-calorie gluten-containing foods like cakes, pastries, cookies, pasta, and more that caused weight loss. In fact, if the dieter is not careful, they might end up gaining weight. This was demonstrated in a 2010 study that showed that those who followed the gluten-free diet consumed more carbohydrates, proteins, and fats compared to those who did not.

9. Mood disorders

A recent systematic review of available literature on the topic of treating mood disorders in individuals with gluten-related disorders by eliminating gluten in their diet revealed promising results. According to this review, there is an association between mood disorders and gluten intake among individuals who have gluten-related disorders. However, this review did not tackle anything regarding the effects of a gluten-free diet on those who have mood disorders but do not have any gluten-related disorders.

10. Autism

The effects of a gluten free diet on children with Autism Spectrum Disorder are still up for debate. There are some parents who believe that gluten-sensitivity is an underlying cause to Autism Spectrum Disorder. That by eliminating gluten in a child’s diet, certain symptoms such as social behaviour and speech would improve. However, there is still not enough evidence to either deny or confirm these claims.

How to Switch to a Gluten Free Diet

 Switch to a Gluten Free Diet

There’s no hidden secret to switching to a gluten-free diet, you just do it. This diet may be straightforward but eliminating gluten in one’s diet is not as easy as it sounds. You must be very familiar with ingredients that are derived from gluten-containing grains. Aside from this, you can’t ever have a cheat day. Even if you consume gluten-containing foods in small amounts that it does not cause symptoms, damage to your gastrointestinal tract may still occur.

What Foods Do You Avoid on a Gluten Free Diet?

The first thing you should avoid is grains. However, not all grains are bad. Be familiar with the following names; wheat, rye, barley, triticale, whole wheat, wheat berries, graham, bulgur, farro, farina, durum, kamut, bromated flour, and spelt. If you see any of these names on the label then do not eat this food item. Other grains like rice, corn, etc. are okay.

Some foods especially grains may be contaminated with fine powder from the prohibited grains. This happens when certain food items are processed in the same machinery as those that are used to process gluten-containing grains. Try to purchase those food items that have been tested for the presence of gluten. Only those that contain about 20 ppm or less are acceptable.

All fresh fruits and vegetables are gluten-free. However, certain circumstances would lead to the presence of gluten in their surfaces. Furthermore, certain processing practices call for the addition of gluten to the fruit or vegetable as a kind of flavouring or thickener.

Meat products are also gluten-free granting that their preparation and cooking process did not involve any gluten-containing products. Adding soy sauce and malt vinegar as a marinade or using flour as breading can incorporate gluten to an otherwise no-gluten food.

Dairy products are generally gluten-free except for malted milk drinks.

Healthy fats and oils are also generally gluten-free except for those that have gluten mixed in them for flavour and thickening.

Beers, ales, non-distilled liquors, and other malt beverages may contain malt, barley, and other gluten-containing grains. You should avoid these drinks.

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Spices, sauces, and condiments may contain gluten because it is added to them as flavour enhancers, stabilizers, and emulsifiers. Watch out for the following when choosing spices, sauces, and condiments; maltodextrin, malt, wheat flour, and modified food starch. All of these are gluten-containing additives.

You’ve got to be careful with pharmaceuticals. Some drugs have wheat gluten in them to act as a binding agent.

The bottom line is just to read food labels carefully. If possible read the label of all of the ingredients used to prepare a dish. Watch out for gluten-containing ingredients that are not so obvious like malt and hydrolyzed vegetable protein. Be extra careful with processed cheese spreads, flavoured yoghurts, canned fruits, and canned vegetables. They are highly likely to contain added gluten. When eating out, do not be afraid to approach your server or the chef regarding your dietary needs. It is their job to serve food that is safe.

Gluten Free Healthy Recipes

Gluten Free Healthy Recipes - The Giving Nature

1. Gluten-Free Caprese Panini

Ingredients

  • Two BFree gluten-free panini rolls
  • One mozzarella ball
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons of pesto
  • Two medium ripe tomatoes
  • A handful of rocket leaves
  • Himalayan salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Cut the panini rolls in half and spread pesto on each side
  2. Slice the mozzarella ball keeping in mind that you will divide them equally between the two panini rolls
  3. Slice the tomatoes and divide it equally between the two panini rolls
  4. Add in the rocket leaves
  5. Use a toasted sandwich maker or dry frying pan to melt the mozzarella inside the panini rolls

2. Garofalo Mafalda Corta with mushrooms and gorgonzola

Ingredients

  • 300 grams of Garofalo gluten-free Mafalde Corta
  • 2 cloves of garlic that crushed and with their skin kept
  • 250 grams of field mushrooms that are washed and cleaned
  • 3 tablespoons of Extra virgin olive oil
  • 70 grams of Gorgonzola (or Stilton as an alternative) broken into pieces.
  • 3 tablespoons of finely chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons of Parmigiano or Grana Padano cheese
  • Black pepper and Himalayan salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Boil enough water that it would immerse all of the pasta
  2. Add some salt and a little bit of oil once the water boils
  3. Add the pasta and let it cook for 9 minutes and stir occasionally
  4. While the pasta is cooking, take a large frying pan and saute the garlic with some olive oil.
  5. Once the garlic changes colour a bit, add the mushroom until it is tender or until the garlic turns golden brown in colour.
  6. Once the garlic and mushrooms are cooked, melt the gorgonzola in this pan.
  7. Your pasta should be ready at this point
  8. Drain them and mix them with the ingredients in your pan
  9. Add parsley, black pepper, and salt

3. Gluten-Free Snacks

Gluten-Free Cheese on Toast with Tomato

Ingredients

  • Three Slices of Gluten-Free Bread
  • 40 grams of Cheese, preferably Cheddar
  • 34 grams of Salad Leaves, preferably Sweet & Crispy
  • 100 grams of Cherry Tomatoes

Instructions

  1. Slice or grate the cheese
  2. Cut the tomatoes into flat disks
  3. Place the tomatoes on top of the sandwich
  4. Then place the sliced or grated cheese
  5. Toast the bread, you may use a toasted sandwich maker or you may use a frying pan that has a thin layer of butter
  6. Wait until the cheese has melted
  7. Serve and enjoy

Gluten Free Diet Plan

Gluten Free Diet Plan - The Giving Nature

To lessen the likelihood of accidental gluten consumption. It is best to prepare meals on your own. Aside from that, meals are easier to prepare when they are planned ahead.

  Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Monday Overnight Chia Seed Pudding Chicken Lentil and Vegetable Soup Lamb Steak and mushrooms
Tuesday Omelette with vegetables Quinoa salad Sauteed shrimp with salad
Wednesday Oatmeal topped with berries Tuna and boiled egg salad Buttered Fish and mashed potato
Thursday Avocado and Egg Salad Gluten-Free Caprese Panini Chicken and broccoli stir-fry
Friday Avocado Banana Berry Smoothie Fried Chicken with Mashed potatoes Fish and beans
Saturday Mushroom omelette Gluten-free coconut chicken curry with potatoes Grilled Chicken, asparagus, and eggplant
Sunday Gluten-free Cheese on Toast with tomato Chicken caesar salad Garofalo Mafalda Corta with mushrooms and gorgonzola

Gluten Free Diet Side Effects

Even though grains like wheat, barley, and rye contain gluten. This doesn’t automatically make them bad foods. In fact, they are nutritious and are packed with lots of vitamins and minerals, as well as dietary fibres. On the flip side, not all gluten-free foods are nutritious. Some of them have low nutritional value and are just empty calories. All of these means that if you follow a gluten-free diet, then you are at risk of developing a deficiency in certain vitamins and minerals. Gluten-free dieters are prone to developing deficiencies in vitamin D, vitamin B12, and folate, as well as deficiencies in minerals like calcium, zinc, magnesium, and iron. Aside from that, your diet may lack dietary fibres as gluten-free diets tend to be low in fibres. Nevertheless, you are not completely hopeless. You can plan your meals ahead so that you can track whether you’re getting enough vitamins, minerals, and dietary fibres or not.

As mentioned earlier, a gluten-free diet may contribute to weight gain if you are not careful. The weight loss observed in a gluten-free diet is not the result of the elimination of the protein gluten in itself but rather the avoidance of high-calorie gluten-containing foods like cake. However, there are high-calorie gluten-free foods as well. Most of the time, these food items are commercially made, gluten-free but highly-processed. If you are fond of eating these kinds of foods then you are likely to gain weight.

Shifting to a diet that is devoid of gluten can cause a great deal of shock to your body. Only conditions that cause sensitivity to gluten would justify the observance of a gluten-free diet. Besides that, gluten free diet benefits are yet to be supported with solid evidence.

Conclusion

Gluten is a protein primarily found in grains. It is an important protein to our diet. However, certain conditions like Celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity makes a person’s body react negatively to the consumption of gluten. This simply cannot be ignored for these gluten-sensitivity conditions can cause serious damage to the digestive system. The only way to treat gluten-sensitivity is to remove gluten from the diet. This removal of gluten from the diet is what is referred to as a gluten-free diet. It was originally intended for those who have gluten-sensitivity. However, due to celebrities endorsing this diet, a lot of people have begun to observe this diet for non-medical purposes.

The gluten free diet has been associated with several health benefits. To date, it is the only method of treating gluten-sensitivity conditions such as Celiac disease, gluten ataxia, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Aside from this, it seems to improve digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome. Other conditions such as fibromyalgia and endometriosis have no known aetiology but may be linked with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Some studies have shown positive effects of the gluten-free diet on these illnesses. It has been theorized that gluten may trigger certain inflammatory pathways and could contribute to rheumatoid arthritis. It has also been suggested that those who have rheumatoid arthritis must reduce their gluten consumption to improve their condition. Finally, other studies have found some correlation between mood disorders and autism, and the consumption of gluten.

To rid the body free of gluten, there is no other way but to avoid gluten from our diets completely. Although it sounds easy, avoiding gluten is quite difficult because they are often hidden in the labels. Hiding behind a different and more technical name. Thus to make sure that you get to avoid gluten, you must familiarize yourself with all gluten-containing foods, and all gluten-containing additives. If possible prepare your own meals and plan ahead to ensure that all of the ingredients in your meals are gluten-free. When dining out, it is always advisable to tell the server of your food sensitivity so that the chef may adjust to meet your needs.

The gluten-free diet may not be worth all the trouble. Although there are certain studies that showed its benefits. These health claims may require further studies before they would become acceptable.

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Luiz Presso
Luiz Presso