Gluten-Free Diet: Is it Healthy?

If you don’t know the details of a gluten free diet, then you might be in for a bit of a shock. If you have read about it before, then you know that it’s no walk in the park. Though it may be harder to follow than most diets, it still needs to answer the all-important question: “Is it healthy?”

Components of Gluten Free Diet

A gluten free diet is the complete removal of gluten from consumption. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and its derivatives. It’s most often seen in the form of wheat flour, which is an essential component for bread. Sometimes gluten itself is used as an additive, commonly as a thickening agent for some foods. Often oats are excluded too. The bottom line is following a gluten free diet is avoiding wheat flour based bread in general, and anything that contains gluten specifically. Given the extent to which bread is consumed, from toast in the morning to a sandwich for lunch, this is no easy task.

Gluten Intolerance Symptoms

The real reason most people follow this diet is because their bodies are sensitive to gluten. Adverse reactions can include diarrhea, fatigue and general inflammation. Individuals with the autoimmune disease known as coeliac sprue are possibly the most affected by gluten consumption. Gluten reacts undesirably with their digestive system, resulting in reduced nutrition absorption as well as diarrhea and inflammation. Complications may derive from the reduction of vitamin and mineral absorption, in children as well as adults, with coeliac sprue.

As far as the question of whether it is healthy or not depends on whether you would be better off sticking to the restrictive gluten free diet. With that in mind, it really becomes a different question altogether: “Are you sensitive to gluten?” 

The only way to answer whether avoiding gluten is right for you is to first examine yourself and determine if you have unexplained symptoms of fatigue, constant diarrhea or inflammation (especially in your digestive tract). These symptoms are vague and do not immediately suggest gluten sensitivity. But, with these unexplained symptoms, you can at least begin to suspect gluten.

Removal of Gluten from Your Diet

The next step is the hard part. The simplest way to determine with a high degree of accuracy if you have a gluten sensitivity is to completely abstain from gluten for a period of one to two months. If your symptoms do not improve after that time period, then you can rule out gluten as your problem. Two months is usually more than enough time for the possible ill-effects of gluten to be cleared from your system. It’s important that you strictly adhere to the diet, as even a small deviation would result in having to start over.

Most adults do not have any sensitivity to gluten. They can safely consume gluten-derived products without ill effects and would not benefit at all from a gluten free diet. But, for those unfortunate to suffer from sensitivity to gluten, there are many alternative foods that don’t contain gluten, including corn, potatoes and rice, each with a world of accompanying recipes.

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