To those who aren’t yet in the know, it can feel like gluten-free diets are just another fad. Although not everyone needs to follow a gluten-free diet, it’s an essential aspect of maintaining good health for people with both celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
The Problem With Following a Gluten-Free Diet
The problem for people with celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or other digestive disorders that require limiting gluten intake is that this substance can be found in a surprisingly large number of foods, making it difficult to avoid. People who need gluten free foods often find themselves struggling to figure out what to buy and how to make healthy meals. If not executed properly, a gluten-free diet can leave followers struggling with nutritional deficiencies. Click here to learn more.
The best approach for most people is to put together a shopping list and plan meals in advance to ensure they’re getting enough key nutrients. When in doubt, consult a nutritionist. There may be nutrients missing from a person’s diet that can be replaced with supplements.
The Benefits of Following a Gluten-Free Diet
For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten intolerance, the hassles associated with buying and cooking only gluten-free foods are worth it. Though not everyone can benefit from following a gluten-free diet, it does confer many benefits on people who struggle to maintain good health while eating gluten-containing foods. The health benefits include the following.
1. Improved Energy Levels
Celiac disease can damage the intestines when people eat gluten-containing foods, which impairs the normal absorption of nutrients. A lack of iron is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in people with celiac disease, and because of the malabsorption issues associated with this life-long condition, taking supplements will not help to prevent anemia and chronic fatigue. Eliminating gluten-containing foods allows the intestines to heal, restoring normal nutrient absorption and improving energy levels.
2. Healthy Weight Gain
People with both celiac disease and gluten intolerance often experience symptoms such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea, which can lead to uncontrolled weight loss, especially if it becomes painful to eat or nutrient deficiencies begin to occur. Following a gluten-free diet can help people regain weight in a healthy way.
3. Get Rid of Bloating
Excess gas and bloating aren’t just embarrassing. For those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, they can also be painful. When switching to a gluten-free diet, the results will be immediate. Excessive gas and bloating will be things of the past.
4. Reduced Joint Pain
Not all of the symptoms of celiac disease are associated with the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Celiac disease, in particular, can have far-reaching effects. Joint pain is one of the most common non-GI symptoms of celiac disease. It occurs due to the increased inflammation that almost always accompanies abnormal immune reactions to gluten. Cutting the trigger out completely will reduce joint pain almost immediately.
5. Fewer Headaches
Headaches are another common non-GI symptom of celiac disease. Researchers have uncovered a close connection between the gut and the brain, which explains why gut dysfunction can lead to an increased risk of migraine headaches. Avoiding gluten can help people struggling with this problem to reduce the frequency of their migraines.
6. Greater Emotional Wellbeing
People with celiac disease aren’t just more likely to experience migraines. They’re also more likely than the average person to suffer from depression. Following a gluten-free diet helps to improve these patients’ quality of life, which, in turn, improves emotional wellbeing and reduces the symptoms of depression. The same logic follows for those with gluten intolerance.
7. Better Bone Health
Unmanaged celiac disease doesn’t just lead to iron deficiencies. It also leaves the body unable to absorb calcium, which is essential for maintaining healthy bones. Calcium deficiency is one of the leading causes of both osteoporosis and osteopenia, so celiac patients are more likely to suffer from these potentially devastating bone problems. The good news is that getting an accurate diagnosis as early as possible and following a strict gluten-free diet can significantly improve bone mineral density.
8. Clearer Skin
Both people with celiac disease and gluten-intolerant consumers are at a higher risk for developing skin problems like eczema and psoriasis. Eliminating gluten from the diet can also eliminate, or at least improve, these and other skin conditions.
9. Avoid or Alleviate Hair Loss
Hair loss can be caused by nutrient deficiencies, including those associated with celiac disease. In most cases, this type of hair loss can be reversed. Starting a gluten-free diet can improve both hair density and texture.
Relationship Between Gluten Consumption and Lactose Intolerance
It’s common for people who suffer from gluten intolerance to be lactose intolerant as well. Researchers believe that the connection is explained by the impairment of gut function. In healthy people, the lining of the gut produces an enzyme called lactase, which is essential for the normal breakdown of the lactose found in dairy products. When the gut function is impaired, so is lactase production.
In some cases, cutting gluten out of a lactose-intolerant person’s diet can restore the ability to consume dairy products. In others, following a gluten-free, casein-free diet is a better alternative.
Gluten as a Trigger Food
Some people who do not suffer from either celiac disease or a conventional form of gluten intolerance can still benefit from eliminating, or at least reducing, gluten-containing foods from their diets. Gluten can act as a trigger for flare-ups in people with irritable bowel syndrome and inflammatory bowel diseases.
In these cases, it’s very important to consult a doctor for a definitive diagnosis. Other dietary changes may also be required to manage these more complex conditions.
Say Goodbye to Gluten
Think it’s time to give a gluten-free diet a try? It’s always best to consult a doctor or nutritionist first and to keep a food diary that lists everything consumed and how it affected the body.
Following a gluten-free diet can be tough at first, but it becomes easier over time. Gluten-sensitive people will find themselves identifying healthier alternatives to the foods they can no longer eat, and the health benefits will make it worthwhile to go through the trouble.