As gluten-free products, restaurants, and restaurant menu options become more mainstream, many are curious about the gluten-free diet and its health benefits. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye which you generally found in bread, cereals and grains. Those who avoid it generally have celiac disease (autoimmune disorder) which makes up 1% of the population, a gluten (wheat, barley, rye) allergy, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, due to adverse physical effects and reactions. There are also those with MTHFR mutations, autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and other health challenges who the diet is indicated for. When a gluten-free diet is recommended by a health provider, there can be various benefits and relief associated, such as:
1. Lower Cholesterol (LDL) Levels
Gluten can be inflammatory for many people, and there is research that a gluten-free diet lowers cholesterol. It can be common to see improvements in small LDL subtypes of cholesterol levels, by potentially dropping as much as 100 points when patients switched to a gluten-free diet. Those who have not seen any improvements with cholesterol medication, may want to discuss a gluten-free diet with a health provider.
2. Increased Energy Levels
Many people experience symptoms of ‘brain fog’, sluggishness, fatigue and tiredness before being diagnosed with celiac disease, or a sensitivity to gluten. These symptoms may be due to nutrient deficiencies from gut damage. And since our gut is our ‘second brain,’ this can cause problems that one might not think has anything to do with gastrointestinal issues. Switching to a gluten-free diet, and allowing the gut to heal, may boost energy levels.
3. Better Digestion
Poor digestion is one of the most reported adverse reactions to gluten consumption. This includes diarrhea, and/or constipation, gas, bloating, pain, nausea and other symptoms. Studies have shown that adopting a gluten-free diet can help ease negative digestive symptoms in both people with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. However, it should also be mentioned that constipation is also a potential side-effect of a gluten-free diet. Ensure your diet is full of fiber if you decide to go gluten-free.
4. Reduction in Chronic Inflammation
Although inflammation is a wonderful body function in healing wounds, and infections, too much of it can have adverse effects. When it is experienced long-term, or chronically, it is known as chronic inflammation, which may lead to various health problems. For those with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet can help reduce inflammation, and there are studies showing that it can reduce markers of inflammation like antibody levels. It can also help heal gut damage caused by gluten-related inflammation. Although no studies have been conducted, those with non-celiac gluten-sensitivity are likely to benefit from the same.
5. Weight Loss
Weight loss shouldn’t be a sole reason to follow a gluten-free diet, however, it is an added benefit for many. This is likely due to the reduction in inflammation, and adopting a more whole-food based diet, with less processed items. However, there are many processed ‘gluten-free’ foods on the market that are extremely high in refined sugars, and other unfavorable ingredients that may also inflame you, and/or cause weight gain. Focusing on a nutrient rich diet full of vegetables, fruits, health gluten-free grains (quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, arrowroot, oats, rice, millet, etc.), nuts, seeds, legumes and lean proteins is ideal.