Does a gluten-free lifestyle always improve the health of everyone who follows it?
You may have loved ones or colleagues who are following a gluten-free lifestyle. Removing all gluten-free products from their diet, some may declare, means that they’re feeling less bloated and more energetic. A few may also say they’ve lost weight on this type of diet.
Should you be following suit? Let’s take a closer look at why some people benefit from removing foods that contain this type of protein from their diets.
Coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity
While most people can easily digest the gluten found in wheat, rye and barley, some people struggle to tolerate it.
If you’ve been diagnosed with either coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, your doctor and/or dietitian would have told you about all the side effects. Even small amounts of the gluten protein could cause symptoms such as diarrhoea, fatigue, weight loss, bloating and anaemia.
Coeliac disease is a well-defined, serious illness where the body’s immune system attacks itself when gluten is eaten. This causes damage to the lining of the gut. It also means that the body cannot properly absorb nutrients from food.
If you have non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, on the other hand, you’ll experience symptoms similar to those experienced by people with coeliac disease. But your body doesn’t produce antibodies and your gut lining isn’t damaged if you eat gluten-containing foods.
Does a gluten-free diet benefit the rest of us?
If you don’t have a diagnosed gluten sensitivity and you decide to follow a gluten-free diet, you may be wasting your money on expensive gluten-free products for no good reason. There is no scientific proof that a gluten-free diet is beneficial for healthy people.
If you are, however, eating lots of foods that contain wheat, rye and/or barley every day, and choose to cut down on these foods, you could do yourself a favour in other ways. For example, if you eat less refined starches like white bread and pastries and increase your fruit and vegetable intake, you could very well lose weight and feel better.
Good gluten-free food choices include lean meat, low-fat dairy products, fruit, vegetables, whole gluten-free grains (e.g. sorghum, quinoa and oats) and healthy fats (e.g. avocado and olive oil).
Good to know
Talk to your doctor if you think you may be sensitive to gluten and before cutting out gluten-free foods. If you stop or even reduce the amount of gluten you eat before you’re tested for coeliac disease you may change the test results.
By Carine Visagie
The Content on this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.