Living a gluten-free lifestyle is essential for those with celiac disease. But what about individuals without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity? What are the benefits of nixing gluten? And what are the cons of leaving these naturally occurring proteins behind?
Helps to Avoid Bad Foods
Following a gluten-free diet can help you steer clear of processed, unhealthy foods. Those Twinkies, Grandma’s Cookies and other junk-food staples available for quick snacking are laden with gluten. But they’re also high in empty calories— via their significant sugar content—as well as unhealthy fats.
Helps Those with Gluten Intolerance
People with celiac disease aren’t the only ones who have digestive systems that don’t get along with gluten. Those who suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity experience symptoms ranging from a foggy mind to headaches, joint pain and fatigue when they ingest these proteins. For anyone that experiences these ailments, avoiding gluten can relieve symptoms.
Helps Those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome
According to a 2013 report published in the journal Gastroenterology & Hepatology, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) affects between 7 and 20 percent of the U.S. adult population. Irritable bowel syndrome is a chronic gastrointestinal disorder that causes pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. Eating a gluten-free diet can help reduce or ease intestinal distress.
Some remove gluten from their diet unnecessarily, perhaps believing doing so helps them lose weight or makes themselves feel better. The reality is some common gluten-containing foods house vital nutrients. Omitting glutinous foods deprives your body of complex carbohydrates, fiber and folate (B-vitamin). Following a gluten-free diet casts out fortified breads that include folic acid, riboflavin and iron—all important nutrients most don’t get enough of from fruits and vegetables.
And with the rise of the gluten-free revolution, many highly processed foods have entered the market. Unfortunately, many of these are higher in calories than their gluten-containing counterparts. “Consuming these products in excess can make you gain weight,” says nutritionist Jessica Levinson.
Those who claim that living a gluten-free lifestyle helps them feel better and lose weight could actually be reaping the benefits of removing high-calorie junk-food that just happens to contain gluten. Instead of unnecessarily nixing gluten from their diets, people could benefit just as much by eating more naturally gluten-free foods like fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
Is living a gluten-free diet right for you? Of course, if you suffer from celiac disease, gluten intolerance or IBS, removing these proteins is essential to your health, well-being and, possibly, sanity. We aren’t going to argue that. But to rid your body of some important nutrients found in glutenous foods is less than ideal if your goal is a well-rounded diet—and you don’t have sensitivities to gluten.
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