Is a Gluten-Free Diet Right for You?
Despite the fact that gluten-free products, diets, and menus have all become commonplace at grocery stores and restaurants due to popular demand, the potential pros and cons of a gluten-free lifestyle are often misunderstood.
First of all, what is gluten and why is it in so many foods? Gluten is a mixture of two proteins that occur naturally in many cereal grains, such as wheat, rye, and barley. Largely responsible for the elastic texture of most dough, gluten can be found in obvious places like breads, cookies, and pastas—but can also appear in unexpected foods, including some types of soy sauce, hot dogs, soups, and even salad dressings.1
Is gluten bad for you?
Generally speaking, gluten does not generally create adverse effects in the body. However, people with celiac disease can become dangerously ill from consuming gluten. While only about 1% of people have celiac disease, foods containing gluten still may not be ideal for everyone else due to wheat allergies or, even more common, for the roughly 18 million Americans with gluten sensitivity.2 For these people, gluten can negatively affect the digestive system, cause inflammation in joints, or a whole host of other issues.
Another thing to consider is that gluten may not be the main cause of symptoms related to insensitivity. According to Gluten Intolerance Group, new research suggests a group of carbohydrates called FODMAPs may actually be responsible for the symptoms attributed to gluten sensitivity. However, many grains containing gluten are also high in FODMAPs.3
Gluten-free diet concerns
One concern with a gluten-free diet is that it has become a trendy (and sometimes dangerous) way to lose weight. While going gluten-free may help some people with their weight-loss goals, as many nutritionists point out, without proper diagnosis and meal planning, you may run the risk of causing other health problems. Experts warn that while many people who eliminate gluten do indeed lose weight, this is largely because they have cut out many gluten-filled desserts and junk foods from their diet. As dietitian Katherine Tallmadge points out, these people “mistakenly attribute that to their gluten-free decision.”4
Going gluten-free without proper education and dietary adjustments becomes especially risky for two reasons: First, gluten-rich whole grains are a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. By completely cutting these grains out of your diet, you run the risk of developing various health issues caused by nutrient deficiencies. Additionally, most gluten-free replacement products, which have become increasingly ubiquitous on grocery store shelves, are made with processed, refined grains that have been stripped of vital nutrients.5
Determining your ideal diet
To avoid any deficiencies and side effects, doctors and nutritionists recommend being first evaluated by appropriate specialists to determine if you have celiac disease or a wheat allergy. While there is currently no perfect indicator of gluten sensitivity, you can work with experts to best determine what kinds of foods are right for your body.6 Either way, if you decide to eliminate or cut back on gluten, you always want to make sure that you are replacing this loss with other fiber and nutrient-rich foods, such as quinoa and buckwheat, while also consuming enough fruits and vegetables.
An ideal way to help you with your diet decisions is to use the Foods for Wellness Scan. Available in the ZYTO Select and Elite software, this specialized biosurvey allows you to scan for biological preference to hundreds of foods, and filter out foods based on gluten intolerance or other food allergies in order to find suggestions for your diet and nutritional considerations that are unique to you. To learn more about how this cutting-edge technology works, check out the ZYTO Bioscan page.
1. “7 Foods You Never Knew Contained Gluten.” HuffPost. Huffingtonpost.com.
2. “Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity.” Beyond Celiac. Beyondceliac.com.
3. “Gluten Sensitivity and FODMAPs.” Gluten Intolerance Group. Gluten.org.
4. Tallmadge, Katherine. “Should You Go Gluten-Free?” HuffPost. Huffingtonpost.com.
5. Rettner, Rachel. “Most People Shouldn’t Eat Gluten-Free.” MyHealthNewsDaily. Scientificamerican.com.
6. “Gluten Sensitivity Testing.” Beyond Celiac. Beyondceliac.com.