Gluten and weight have an unfortunate connection. Scientists now know that gluten is the culprit behind the frustrating question that taunts many unsuccessful dieters: “I stick to a healthy, balanced diet, and I exercise, so why am I still obese?” Whether the problem is a mild reaction to gluten or a more serious condition called celiac disease, gluten has an effect on weight. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and oat products, whether in the form of pasta, cookies, bread, or cereal. An estimated 30 percent of the population suffers from gluten intolerance.
A sea of reports and blogs that focus on gluten are easy to find, but if you are bothered by an intolerance to gluten, you may find it difficult wading through all the discussions to get at the heart of why and how gluten may affect your weight. Here are three key harmful effects.
1. Absorption Malfunction
Because of intolerance to gluten, the small intestine is not absorbing nutrients as it should. In a sense, the body is starved of these nutrients. Some celiac patients are below normal weight as a result of poor absorption, while other celiac sufferers are overweight or even obese.
The puzzling behavior of some obese people who crave food after having a full meal is now better understood as gluten intolerance. If you are gluten-intolerant, you may want to continue eating even after a 1,200-calorie meal. Gluten, interfering with your absorption of nutrients, leaves you with a hungry feeling. Researchers further report that celiac disease causes malabsorption of the B vitamins and vitamins A,D, E and K as well as minerals.
2. Addictive Exorphins
Celiac disease is the suspected reason driving many compulsive eaters to maintain destructive eating habits. Overindulging in food may not be due to lack of self-discipline but due to a bad reaction to gluten. Gluten releases a drug-like effect on your brain that urges you to keep eating. Some foods have compounds called exorphins. As many as 15 exorphins are in gluten, and these exorphins make sufferers crave more and more food.
Celiac victims who overeat are, not incorrectly, defined as food addicts. Celiac disease has a genetic base. Seeking medical advice for diagnosis and working with a nutritionist are important.
3. Diet Hazards
Once you are placed on a gluten-free eating plan, you may think that all your weight problems caused by gluten intolerance are over. Think again. Beware the gluten-free diet pitfalls, say nutritionists who are familiar with gluten.
Gluten-free packaged foodstuffs may put extra sugar or fat in their ingredients to make the flour substitutes taste better. Also, gluten-free foods may require more butter or oil to compensate for the lack of gluten, adding calories. Always check the ingredient labels for calories per serving. If you are baking from scratch, be mindful of serving size and information about estimated calories per serving, if available.
The stores have expanded their gluten-free offerings quite admirably from one shelf in the back of the store with a few products to a whole section of gluten-free foods that range from pasta, pancake mix and cereals, to bread, cookie bars and other tasty baked goods. Just remember that too much sugar can raise your blood sugar levels and trigger cravings leading to weight gain too.