Gluten-free has evolved from a flashy diet trend into big business. To put this in perspective, market trends suggest that gluten-free could be worth as much as at 7.59 billion dollars by 2020.1 In some surveys, over 25% of people stated that they were looking to try to cut gluten out of their diet for health reasons.
The good news is that if you choose to live gluten-free, you have more options than ever. The other side of this coin is that when diets and trends hit the mainstream, it creates an atmosphere ripe for myths and misinterpretation. Read on to cut through the confusion and learn what a gluten-free diet entails and the concrete way that it can help you.
How Does Gluten-Free Work?
Gluten is a specific protein that you can find in many different types of wheat, which is a major staple of the U.S. diet. Most people with normal diets get the bulk of their gluten from foods like grains, cereals, and bread, as well as dishes that incorporate these. However, what may surprise you is the fact that gluten is implemented in many other food products as well. For example, some flavorings incorporate gluten. Some frozen vegetable sauces utilize gluten. Even certain dietary supplements contain gluten.
Where gluten issues sprout from are from allergies, sensitivities and other conditions which can have a serious impact on quality of life. These can vary in severity. In some cases, autoimmune issues can affect digestion. In other cases, allergies to wheat are the problem. A past survey indicated that around .4% of Americans were dealing with this issue, which means that it is similar to comparable allergies to shellfish, nuts or eggs. It can manifest in symptoms on the skin as well as in the respiratory system and digestive tract.2
The harm that gluten can cause is not due to any intrinsic properties, but due to some sort of biological incompatibility. However, you can’t create a billion-dollar industry on the back of a small percentage of people. The difference maker is less formal types of gluten sensitivity. It’s been estimated that 18 million Americans deal with this, but it’s hard to understand what the source is. These people don’t test positive for a formal condition or allergy, but still have marked distress after consuming gluten.3
Part of the issues with gluten sensitivities is that they can manifest themselves in many different ways. Bloating and bowel issues are the most common ones. However, many other symptoms are also reported.
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What Type of Gluten-Free Food Is out There?
If you’ve decided that this is a potential match for you, you need to know your options in terms of gluten-free foods. Some are common staples that you can keep on using. Examples include:
Here, your concerns may be what you are putting in or with your food. For example, your chicken is perfectly gluten-free, unless you bread it.
The next category is foods that are still gaining mainstream traction but are becoming popular as alternatives for wheat or wheat byproducts. These include:
The final category is ready-made products that are produced without gluten, and in some cases, in facilities where gluten isn’t present to avoid the risk of contamination. These fulfill the same function as meat substitutes for vegetarians – replicating flavors and textures without the offending ingredient.
With this said, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that gluten-free foods are automatically healthy foods. A good example is gluten-free candy or baked goods. These have no gluten, but they are ultimately still a sugary snack and should be enjoyed in moderation. Some gluten-free foods can be healthy staples of your diet, and others should be treated as accessible options for special occasions.
Along with gluten-free foods, many supplement makers are trying to avoid using gluten, to make their products more accessible to a wider range of users. Enzymedica does this with many of our most popular offerings, including the Chewable Acid Soothe™, a product designed to soothe occasional heartburn. This ensures that people with gluten sensitivities can enjoy the benefits.
How Does Gluten-Free Help Me?
At this point, we’ve established that gluten-free foods provide those with sensitivities a safe way to enjoy certain food groups and maintain a balanced diet. However, some people contend that going gluten-free can lead to a variety of other health benefits. Is this true? There’s no scientific backing for a direct correlation, but indirectly, there may be potential.
Let’s consider weight management. If a person removes traditional gluten from their diet, this won’t lead directly weight loss. However, if they are already living a healthy lifestyle and lower their carb intake when they eat less gluten, this may result in their losing some weight.5
Unless you have a direct sensitivity to gluten, a gluten-free diet is unlikely to affect your health significantly. However, what it can do is prompt you to introduce new healthy foods into your diet that are gluten-free, like quinoa and other ancient grains. By the same token, you can also leverage a gluten-free diet to eat a more balanced diet in general. This may lead to some of the positive anecdotal reports that people have about going gluten-free.
Getting into a Gluten-Free Lifestyle
You may be ready to go into your gluten-free lifestyle with the expectation that it will have a positive result, but always be sure to consult with a doctor or medical professional before any major dietary change. Not only can your doctor guide you in deciding whether this is a good decision for you, he or she can also make some helpful suggestions to help you get started.
Get in the habit of reading labels.
As mentioned before, gluten and gluten by-products have a way of working themselves into things where you may not expect to find them. It falls on you as a consumer to be diligent and read the labels of things you buy to make sure that you’re not accidentally getting gluten in your meals. This is doubly-important if you have a serious sensitivity.
Think of the nutrients you need.
We get certain nutrients from certain foods, and traditional grains have been a source of several of them, particularly in the U.S. For example, B vitamins are common in many fortified breads or cereals, but not so much in their gluten-free replacements. Another important component of these foods is dietary fiber. Dietary fiber not only promotes regularity but also offers several other health benefits. The easiest way to circumvent this is with a dietary supplement, but you can also get these from other foods. For example, beans and legumes are gluten-free, and certain ones are good sources of fiber.
Don’t feel restrained.
The good side of the gluten-free movement is that more businesses, including grocery stores and restaurants, are trying to court gluten-free shoppers. This means that you can prepare a home-cooked meal or have a night out on the town without your diet playing an issue. Take a look and see if some of your favorite businesses have gluten-free offerings.
Enzymedica GlutenEase™ and GlutenEase™ Extra Strength are two great products with special enzymes that help your body break efficiently break down gluten. It can be an effective safety net for those with gluten intolerance, but it cannot replace a gluten free diet for those with Celiac disease.
A gluten-free diet means different things to different people. For some, it is an attempt to return to dietary normalcy. For others, it is a platform to make meaningful dietary changes. Whatever your motivation, make sure that your gluten-free diet is also a balanced and healthy one.
Markets and Markets, Gluten-Free Products Market worth 7.59 Billion USD by 2020 https://www.marketsandmarkets.com/PressReleases/gluten-free-products.asp
Celiac Disease Foundation, 9 Things You Should Know Before Going Gluten-Free https://celiac.org/blog/2014/02/9-things-you-should-know-before-going-gluten-free/
Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity. Kirgel A, Lebwohl B. Advances in Nutrition. 2016 Nov 15;7(6):1105-1110. doi: 10.3945/an.116.012849. Print 2016 Nov.
Marsh A, Eslick EM, Eslick GD. Does a diet low in FODMAPs reduce symptoms associated with functional gastrointestinal disorders? A comprehensive systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur J Nutr. 2016;55(3):897-906.
Roush K. Diets vs. combinations of fat, protein, and carbohydrates. Am J Nurs. 2009;109(11):6
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Far from a fad, the microbiome is becoming a huge opportunity for growth in both wellness and medicine, with a large body of ongoing studies revolving around it. Some may be surprised to find out how much the microbes in the gut affect our overall health!