What are the Side Effects of a Gluten-Free Diet?
Going without gluten is the only option for those with celiac disease. And it can certainly make life better for those with milder cases of gluten sensitivity. But more people without celiac disease or gluten intolerance are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon as a way to avoid carbs and processed foods—among other things. But what are the potential side effects of going gluten-free for those with and without gluten-related disorders?
As you would expect, for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, the side effects of nixing gluten include a reduction in, or complete eradication, of symptoms, including:
- Weight loss
But what about those individuals without gluten-related disorders?
Since many gluten-free substitutes lack the nutritional value of the products they’re replacing, nutrient deficiencies are possible. These deficiencies, and related side effects, include:
- Fiber—The most common symptom of not getting enough fiber is constipation and bloating. Oddly, this is also a symptom of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, which is one reason why self-diagnosing for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is not recommended.
- Vitamin D—One of the most important things vitamin D does is keep the immune system strong, allowing the body to fend off illness-causing viruses and bacteria. So, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to more sick days.
- Vitamin B12—Vitamin B12 plays a big role in the production of red blood cells and DNA. A deficiency of B12 can lead to weakness and fatigue, as red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body.
- Iron—Like vitamin B12, iron helps in the production of red blood cells. An iron deficiency means the body may not be getting enough oxygen to essential organs and tissues, leading to drowsiness, pale skin, shortness of breath and headaches or dizziness.
- Zinc—This mineral helps fight infections in the body and produce cells. A zinc deficiency can lead to unexplained weight loss, wounds that won’t heal, diarrhea, loss of appetite or even open sores.
- Magnesium—A magnesium deficiency can lead to muscle cramps and weakness, high blood pressure and even osteoporosis. This is due to the mineral’s essential role in maintaining normal nerve and muscle function, as well as supporting a healthy immune system.
If experiencing symptoms of gluten-related disorders, such as diarrhea, bloating, gas, fatigue and depression, consult a doctor to appropriately diagnose celiac disease or gluten intolerance. But, for those without celiac disease or other gluten intolerances, removing it from a healthy diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies and associated negative side effects.
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