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Realities of a Gluten-Free Diet
Realities of a Gluten-Free Diet. Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in many foods. It is primarily found in grains like wheat and barley. Gluten-free diets have started to become popular lately. These diets exclude all gluten and replace it with other foods. Many people have heard about the positive effects of a gluten-free diet. They want to eat healthy food to have better health. These health benefits are not always true and are not the same for every person. Anyone who is curious about gluten-free diets should understand a few key points.
Gluten Intolerance and Allergies
Realities of a gluten-free diet should be considered. The main reason gluten-free diets exist today is because some people have intolerance to gluten, a gluten allergy or Celiac disease. Celiac disease causes a bad response in the immune system when gluten goes into the small intestine. This results in serious abdominal pain, intestinal damage, nausea and diarrhea that can all be debilitating. People who are intolerant cannot process gluten properly and could have pain and diarrhea. Allergies to gluten can cause very serious and life-threatening reactions. Anyone with one of these conditions must follow a gluten-free diet to live a healthy and normal life.
Connection with Processed Foods
A reason gluten-free diets have become so popular is because of the connection the protein has to processed foods. Gluten is extracted and added to various processed foods in order to provide a chewy texture or other properties. Gluten is even added to makeup and beauty products to create a more appealing texture. Cutting out gluten from a diet often means completely avoiding processed foods. This can actually be very healthy although the dietary benefits have nothing to do with gluten.
Health Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet
The health benefits of a gluten-free diet are obvious for individuals with Celiac disease, a gluten allergy or gluten intolerance. The health benefits are not as clear when it comes to average people who have no problems with gluten. Some of the peripheral effects can include a reduced risk of heart disease because processed foods, unhealthy fats and sweets are avoided. This can also lower blood pressure and normalize blood sugar levels in the body. It is important to understand these benefits come from controlling the intake of processed foods, chemicals and sodium. They are not because gluten is excluded.
Issues with a Gluten-Free Diet
There are some potential issues when a healthy person starts a gluten-free diet. The first is that the diet can restrict some otherwise healthy foods like those containing complex carbohydrates. A gluten-free diet might not contain enough natural sources of starches and sugars. The diet could become heavily unbalanced and include far too many animal-based proteins. Portion control can also become an issue since eating only gluten-free foods can leave some healthy people feeling hungry after each meal. This can lead to weight gain and nutritional deficiencies.
Misleading Anecdotal Claims
Realities of a gluten-free diet means to be aware of the number of anecdotal claims that surround gluten-free diets. These are claims based on unscientific anecdotes from average people. There have been claims that gluten-free diets can cure everything from autism to arthritis. Unfortunately, these claims are not based on medical science. There is no consistent evidence that simply removing gluten from an otherwise normal diet cures these conditions. The reality is that gluten-free diets have limited to no benefits for healthy people who do not suffer from some form of gluten intolerance.
Derek is blogging for Multiple Sclerosis Living Symptom Free, a site that provides tips on living an MS free lifestyle and different MS friendly recipes.