Is a gluten-free diet for you?
Gluten is still one of the big buzzwords in the health circles and you might have already embraced or thinking of embracing the gluten-free lifestyle. Either way, here are a few things for you to consider to get the most health benefits from your diet.
Should I go gluten-free?
We’re all different and have different nutritional needs, so whatever diet change you’re considering, make sure that it complements your personal health and fitness goals and discuss these with your nutritional or healthcare professional. They will be able to assess your needs and your current health and advise you accordingly. If you do have symptoms of coeliac disease or gluten sensitivity, your practitioner will also be able to rule out other possible causes, such as, for example, gut inflammation, IBS, etc.
In fact, fairly recent headlines haven’t been very positive about gluten-free diets, with organisations such as American Heart Association publishing an article about a study, suggesting that gluten avoidance might even increase risk of certain illnesses. And while there are some concerns about the quality of these studies, it’s true that a gluten-free diet can be made as unhealthy as any other diet, if not followed properly. However, it is also true that if you follow a western diet, it is very likely that you are consuming more gluten than necessary.
Gluten-free market is a thriving one at the moment, but just because something is free from gluten, doesn’t mean that it’s health. Free-from products can often contain less important nutrients and more sugars compared to the alternatives. It is important to always check the label and pay attention to food quality when deciding to eliminate gluten. This is why, if not followed carefully, gluten-free diets can, in fact, negatively affect people’s health.
Who should go gluten-free?
Of course, it is absolutely vital that those with coeliac disease completely eliminate gluten from their diets. But are there any other reasons to reduce or eliminate gluten?
Cases of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) seem to be on the rise. Much is still unknown about this type of reaction to gluten, but gluten avoidance seems to improve the symptoms in such cases. Apart from NCGS there are other reasons why the ingestion of gluten would cause an adverse reaction in people, such as, for instance, wheat allergy or sensitivity. Again, your nutritional practitioner will be able to help you pinpoint the exact trigger – be it gluten or other – and adjust your diet accordingly to eliminate the negative reactions.
Genetically predisposed individuals are at a greater risk of developing coeliac disease later in life with continued exposure to gluten. Coeliac disease has a strong genetic component, but this doesn’t mean that the disease will necessarily develop just because of the predisposition. However, many might want to reduce this risk by either reducing their intake of gluten or adopting a gluten-free lifestyle – especially in the presence of symptoms of reactivity to gluten or compromised gut health.
Other genetic variants, such as the APOE4, might make you consider reducing your intake of gluten. The APOE4 variant is mostly know to increase the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, however, it might also be responsible for increased tendency for inflammation. Gluten is also known to increase inflammation, so at least limiting the intake of gluten might be beneficial in order to reduce this risk.*
How to go gluten-free healthily
If you and your practitioner have established that the gluten-free diet is appropriate for you, here are a few things to consider to boost your health and make your diet work for you.
- If you have time, cook from scratch to ensure that all products are healthy and of high quality and you know what amounts of nutrients are going in your food.
- Read labels when purchasing gluten-free products from supermarkets.
- Include gluten-free whole grains in your diet, such as brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, millet, etc. Fibre from whole grains is very important for our gastro-intestinal health and might even protect from certain diseases.
- Consume a variety of foods. While sticking to the same gluten-free meals might be tempting, you still need to consume a wide variety of nutrients to stay in good health.
- If you’re only looking to reduce your gluten intake, choose grains that contain less gluten, such as spelt and rye and make sure that products containing them have gone through a longer fermentation period that makes gluten more easily digestible.
- Article provided by myDNAhealth