Gluten-Free Diet: Will It Help Me?
Over the last decade, we’ve witnessed an explosive growth in foods marketed as Gluten-Free. Once a niche market limited to boutique health food stores, it’s not uncommon to now see mainstream global food and drink brands tout their Gluten-Free status or expanding their product lines with new Gluten-Free offerings.
The appeal of Gluten-Free foods and drinks has expanded far beyond people only living with Celiac. Relatively few people in North America suffer from Celiac Disease.
Celiac Disease is the autoimmune condition that creates a severe gluten intolerance and can result in life-threatening reactions to consuming any of this specific, grain-based protein. Results from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimate the number of Celiac afflicted in the United States at around 2 million, or roughly 1 in 150 people.
But are there actual benefits to adopting a Gluten-Free diet among people not afflicted with Celiac Disease? Medical authorities have yet to agree on a conclusive answer to this, but there’s a growing body of anecdotal evidence that suggests Yes! Yes, even without Celiac (or any other allergy or sensitivity to Gluten), there could be observable health benefits tied to removing Gluten from your diet. Advocates for everyone going gluten-free cite many positive results, including healthy weight loss and increased mental clarity.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains such as Wheat, Rye and Barley. Gluten helps maintain the shape and elasticity of food, like breads and pastas, while fermenting.
Some food manufacturers also add Gluten to products to thicken them, increase their cohesion, and/or add a chewy mouth feel. Foods that commonly include Gluten include, but are not limited to: breads, beer, pasta, French Fries, many desserts, breakfast cereals, soups, processed meats and some seasonings, including several brands of soy sauce.
What does Gluten-Free Really Mean?
Gluten-Free refers to specific foods and an overall diet that excludes the protein gluten. A gluten-free diet is a medical necessity for people living with Celiac Disease, essentially an extreme (and potentially fatal) allergic reaction to gluten. In addition to Celiac, there are related Wheat allergies, and less severe sensitivities to gluten, which would all benefit from a gluten-free diet.
Many foods are naturally gluten-free, and can comprise staples of this diet, including fruits and vegetables, unprocessed beans / nuts / legumes, low-fat dairy products and unprocessed, lean meats.
Some products sold as gluten-free may still contain traces of gluten: there is a concern of cross-contamination, especially if manufactured in a facility that produces oats or wheat-based foods and drinks. This is where anyone with Celiac, or any other sensitivities to gluten, would be well served by reaching out to a doctor, and / or online communities supporting gluten-free eating, for specific food recommendations, rather than just trusting marketing claims on a product’s label.
Will A Gluten-Free Diet Benefit Me?
Advocates for going gluten-free, outside of those for whom this is a medical necessity, claim the benefits of a gluten-free diet include weight loss, overall improved health, improved gastrointestinal health, improved athletic performance and increased mental focus, with an often-cited lifting of “brain fog.”
Will you experience any or all of these benefits by cutting gluten out of your diet? The short, honest answer is: we don’t entirely know, yet. Maintaining a gluten-free diet is a lifelong necessity for people with celiac. Following the diet and avoiding any cross-contamination results in fewer celiac related symptoms and complications.
For some people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, the condition may not be lifelong. They may only need to follow the gluten-free diet for a certain period, such as one or two years, and then retest their sensitivity. For other people with gluten sensitivities unrelated to celiac, the diet may be a lifelong commitment.
To date, few clinical studies have looked at the benefits of the diet among the general population — people without celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. There is, however, a large and growing body of anecdotal evidence (some actually coming from legit medical professionals) supporting the claims of healthy weight loss, increased athletic performance, and increased mental focus.
What seems certain is, so long as you make sure to supplement or replace key nutrients you might otherwise derive from grain-based breads, cereals, and other foods (like iron, calcium, fiber, niacin and folate) a gluten-free diet is unlikely to harm you. It may definitely be worth trying, to see if you experience any of the positive results gluten-free advocates promote!
Are WrawP's products gluten-free?
All products hand-made at the Wrawp Foods kitchen are 100% Gluten-Free.