Should You Go Gluten Free? Two Reasons People Benefit From A Gluten-Free Diet
Traditional pizza, cookies, cakes, and pasta all contain one common ingredient: gluten. Gluten, which means “glue” in Latin, is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. The protein helps to bind breads, pasta, and desserts to create a denser product.
Recently, the gluten-avoidance phenomenon has become increasingly popular. However, avoiding this sometimes-troublesome protein may not be entirely necessary for everyone.
There are some conditions, in particular, for which a gluten-free lifestyle is necessary for optimal health.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS)
If you don't have any of these conditions, but you suspect a gluten allergy, you may be gluten intolerant. Gluten intolerance, is different than celiac disease, which is a true allergy to gluten. Gluten intolerance can be a widespread of symptoms including the following:
IBS symptom: cramping, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, abdominal pain
Brain fog, difficulty concentrating, poor memory
Anxiety and depression
Muscle and joint pains
Numbness and tingling in arms and legs
Dermatitis, eczema, rashes, rosacea
If you suspect that you have a gluten sensitivity, one of the best things you can do is to go on a gluten-free diet for 30 days to see how you feel. A lot of people say 'I've been eating XYZ forever, I would know if I was allergic." but in this case, it's a sensitivity, and often times people's bodies don't react until they remove the food, and then add it back in. I personally followed an elimination diet, and learned that gluten makes me exhausted, dairy causes breakouts and congestion, and nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant) make me itchy and cause joint pain. I didn't realize any of this until I removed the foods, and added them back in. I felt like a totally different person! I no longer needed massages for my neck aches, a decongestant for my sinus issues, and a bottle of Advil for my headaches! If you find yourself struggling with any of these issues, I would highly consider an elimination diet.
Foods To Avoid
It's also important to check labels, and always ask questions when dining out, as gluten tends to hide in foods you'd never expect it to be in.
Some examples are:
Sauces, marinades, dressings
Chips (Corn does NOT always mean gluten-free)
Why Should I Avoid Gluten?
So you're probably wondering what makes gluten "bad" for certain people. Here are the 3 reasons why you should avoid gluten:
1. Gluten causes inflammation: If you have an autoimmune disease, that means your immune system is attacking your body's own tissue. Inflammation is your immune system's natural response to anything "dangerous" including a virus, a cut, a stressful situation, or the bagel you ate for breakfast. If you eat gluten when you're sensitive to it, it causes inflammation in your body, which stresses out your immune system. Eventually, if you keep stressing out your body and inflaming it, it can trigger an autoimmune disease, or make your symptoms even worse.
2. Gluten causes leaky gut: When gluten enters your small intestine, it triggers the release of zonulin, which is a chemical that signals the tight junctions of your intestinal wall to open up. When these open up, leaky gut can occur because toxins, proteins, and undigested food particles enter your bloodstream. Leaky gut is known to be one of the main triggers of autoimmune diseases, so that's why #guthealth is so important!
Prior to my PCOS/Hashimoto's diagnosis, I definitely was one of those people who thought people were gluten-free just to be "trendy", but now that I've removed it for health purposes, and learned more about the science behind it, I understand the phenomenon. If you suspect gluten could be impacting your health, or causing unpleasant symptoms, I recommend you follow an elimination diet and see how you feel.
For more gluten-free tips and recipes, check out my Instagram! I don't find gluten-free to be a challenge, because there are so many healthy alternatives these days! Get creative in the kitchen and you'll learn it's not that bad.