Too often I read articles that claim if you do not have Celiac disease and you go gluten free, there are no benefits to your health. But what most of these articles also state is that when these people chose gluten free, they cut out foods such as cookies, cakes, and bread, which are considered to be unhealthy. Removing these foods from the diet, even if the reason is because they are “going gluten-free”, does have health benefits. It forces individuals to, potentially, make healthier choices. What articles need to emphasize is that the gluten free diet fad can be harmful, or at least lack benefits, when people replace common gluten-containing foods with highly processed gluten free versions. Going gluten free may help guide people to avoid making unhealthy choices, choosing fruit over cake for dessert or having a salad instead of a pizza for lunch. Although weight loss or reports of people feeling better on a gluten free diet may not be attributed directly to the lack of gluten itself does not mean that a gluten free diet does not have any health benefits to those without Celiac disease.
Not enough is understood about gluten and its affects on the human body, but for those with Celiac, cutting out gluten is vital. Wheat gluten is a protein that is created when glutenin and gliadin, two molecules, combine and form a bond. This process occurs when dough is kneaded and is responsible for bread’s chewy texture. Celiac disease is an allergy to wheat gluten where the immune system triggers an inflammatory response in the individual’s intestine. Essentially the body mistakes gluten for a foreign body, attacks it, and can cause serious damage to the surface of the small intestine. As the presence of celiac disease increases and more research on gluten is published, more people are educating themselves via the media and deciding to partake in a gluten free diet.
Articles published about the benefits or harmful effects of gluten or gluten free diets need to share all the facts before they advise readers what type of diet to follow. Yes, if you are choosing to go gluten free, make sure you supplement your diet correctly so you don’t lose out on essential nutrients from whole grains. Just because you are removing gluten from you diet does not mean you should substitute common gluten foods for gluten free versions – check labels, educate yourself on the ingredients your are putting into your body (same goes for foods with gluten too). There should be an emphasis on all natural, whole foods. Also, writers should include information on the processing of wheat and how majority of that process is harsh and unnatural. Once given all the information, readers can make their own decisions about whether they want to eat gluten or not, and in what amount.
Every body is different, some people can digest gluten, some people cant, and some can in different amounts. Same goes for all food groups. Information shared about different foods and diets need to make clear that certain foods work for some people and may not work for others. Trust me if you told me to eat vegan I would have stomachaches for days – I physically cannot digest that much fiber and vegetables. Speaking from experience, I have been gluten free for about six years and was diagnosed with Celiac disease a year ago. I am in support of reducing gluten or going gluten free, but not to substitute gluten free foods for those with gluten, but rather to eat a healthier diet. As Michael Spector elaborates in his article, the Western diet today is full of sugary foods and carbohydrates that are refined and highly caloric. Majority of the wheat eaten in the American diet comes from white flour that is highly processed, containing gluten while lacking vitamins and nutrients. Committing to a gluten free diet forces you to remove foods that contain white flour, amongst other things, that have been linked or potentially can contribute to negative health outcomes. Choosing a gluten free diet can have benefits for some. It also can have harmful effects if not done correctly. It also may not be necessary, may contribute to weight loss, and also may not. Before advising readers to chose a diet, lets share all the facts, emphasize the importance of natural foods, and reiterate that every body is different meaning one diet may not be the answer for you as it is for me.