Gluten continues to become one of the most common ingredients that people are looking to avoid. But what exactly is gluten, and what are the benefits of following a gluten-free diet?
Top Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet
- Clear Skin
- Better Gut Health
- Decreased Headaches
- Improved Energy Levels
- Decreased Joint Pain
- Improved Food Choices
- Weight Loss
Going completely gluten free can lead to major changes in how you feel and how your body functions. There’s just one catch - this approach really only works if you have a gluten intolerance, wheat allergy, or celiac disease.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that many people won’t claim to see major advantages when they avoid gluten. This is because making any changes in your eating has the potential to positively impact your health. But for those without a diagnosed gluten intolerance, it likely isn’t the removal of gluten specifically that is causing these shifts (1,2).
If you are wondering if you have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, the best approach is to speak to your physician or work with a dietitian.
What is Gluten, and Why Should You Avoid It?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. It is also present in many processed foods in various gluten-containing ingredients and additives like soy sauce, beer, malt, and fried foods.
Similar to other food allergies and intolerance, there is a segment of the population that is not able to tolerate this protein. This can manifest as a variety of symptoms depending on the person and can range from some digestive discomfort to a life-threatening immune response like celiac disease.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is caused by eating gluten and is one of the main reasons why people will associate gluten with a pro-inflammatory response. When people with celiac disease continue to consume gluten, it can lead to inflammation and damage to the intestinal tract.
A common wheat allergy can also trigger an immune response, but this is not necessarily gluten specific. It is not thought that gluten causes any inflammation or immune response in those without celiac disease, wheat allergy, or a gluten intolerance.
Diagnosing celiac is tricky and can be quite invasive. However, it is estimated that less than 2% of the population has the disease (3,4).
Another common complaint around eating gluten is gluten intolerance or sensitivity. This occurs when individuals are not able to digest gluten properly and it causes a wide variety of discomforts (5).
It is even harder to estimate exactly how many people have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity and are not able to tolerate this protein in their food (6). That is because there is no clear test for this beyond an elimination diet and continued monitoring.
Outside of a diagnosed allergy or intolerance to gluten, it is not necessary or even recommended that people should avoid it in their diet. Of course, like most things this depends on the person. If you find that choosing more gluten-free foods has a positive impact on how you feel, then it might be worth continuing.
7 Health Benefits of Eliminating Gluten Foods From Your Diet
If your body is sensitive or intolerant to gluten, eliminating it from your diet can lead to serious health benefits and improved quality of life. Here are five advantages of eating a gluten-free diet:
1. Clear Skin
One of the most common symptoms of a sensitivity to gluten is the appearance of a rash on various parts of the body, including the face, back, elbows, knees, and buttocks. These small red bumps are caused by dermatitis herpetiformis, an immune system response to eating gluten.
Removing gluten from the diet can help clear things up, but some additional medication may be necessary depending on how extensive the skin rash is.
2. Better Gut Health
Many of the main issues caused by gluten occur in the digestive system, including bloating, gas, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and vomiting (7). When switching to a diet of gluten-free foods, most of these symptoms should disappear and gut health improves drastically.
You may find that your bowel movements are more regular, abdominal pain and discomfort subsides, and that your digestive system is running more smoothly.
3. Decreased Headaches
Headaches and migraines are common complaints among those who can’t tolerate gluten, along with brain fog (8). Cutting out gluten-containing foods from your diet can help stop migraines and help you think more clearly.
4. Improved Energy Levels
Feeling tired after eating gluten-containing food is another common complaint from those suffering from celiac disease (9). This is why some may find that switching to a gluten-free meal plan improves their overall energy levels and mood.
5. Decreased Joint Pain
In one study, arthritis patients that have a gluten sensitivity or celiac disease eliminated gluten from their diet and found that their arthritis symptoms improved (10). For those who are prone to sore joints and cannot tolerate gluten, switching up your eating may decrease joint pain.
6. Improved Food Choices
If you are focused on choosing more naturally gluten free foods in your meal plan, you may find that your nutrition improves from better food choices. This is because naturally gluten free foods are typically whole foods like meat, dairy, fruits, and vegetables. Additionally, many gluten free grain alternatives tend to be simple, whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, and many ancient grains.
7. Weight Loss
Unexpected weight loss is a symptom of celiac disease due to many of the associated digestive concerns. However, switching to a gluten free meal plan can lead to more intentional weight loss when it is included as part of a balanced, calorie controlled diet. This is typically the result of improved food choices and decreased calorie intake when cutting out certain foods.
Are There Any Disadvantages of Gluten-Free Living?
Going gluten free does not automatically mean better health and nutrition. Even though gluten is found in a large number of processed foods, many gluten free products on the market are also heavily processed. If you are relying on packaged food options over simple whole foods, you may find that your diet has become less healthy after making the switch (11).
Also, gluten containing foods like wheat, rye, and barley are naturally nutritious and are not necessary to avoid if one does not have to.
Living gluten free has gotten much easier in recent years with more restaurants and food manufacturers understanding how to avoid it and support gluten free individuals. However, it still requires a decent amount of nutrition know-how and self reliance. This can make sticking to a gluten free diet feel challenging.
Want to make gluten free living way easier? Opt for a gluten free meal delivery service like Trifecta. Trifecta will plan, cook, and ship delicious gluten free meals directly to your door. So you can focus on improving your health in other ways.