Gluten Free – Is It For Me?

It seems that every corner of the grocery store I look at contains food packaging boldly proclaiming to be Gluten Free. The “Gluten Free” diet has swept the nation, and recently I even saw gluten free water!

While the variety of gluten free options increase, we must ask ourselves—Is the gluten free diet really for me? What is gluten, and will eliminating it from my diet help my health?

Gluten is a mixture of proteins which are found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye and gives bread its distinctive elasticity and fluffiness. Gluten helps create air pockets in a baked good as the dough rises, and is activated during the kneading and mixing process of baking. Because gluten is an integrated part of these grains, any food product utilizing wheat, barley or rye will intrinsically contain gluten. This is how soups thickened with flour, soy sauce cooked in roasted wheat, and other food products may unexpectedly contain gluten.

Some individuals have an autoimmune reaction when consuming foods which contain gluten-breaking off the absorptive portion of their digestive tract which results in malabsorption, diarrhea, and potentially deficiencies in vitamins and minerals over time. This autoimmune reaction is known as Celiac Disease, is diagnosed by a medical professional, and requires the complete elimination of gluten from their diet in order to properly maintain nutrient levels.

Additionally, an increase of individuals forgo gluten in their diet due to non-celiac gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy which additionally result in gastrointestinal discomfort, abdominal pain, yet does not cause damage to the absorptive portion of the digestive tract. Symptoms for gluten sensitivity vary and may be discussed with a health care provider to determine whether or not removing gluten from the diet will be beneficial. Those with a wheat allergy may experience hives, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty breathing, and should consult with a doctor or allergy specialist in order to determine a course of treatment.

Any individual is able to follow a gluten free diet, and many have eliminated gluten as they feel it will help their overall health. Gluten elimination may be beneficial if you have Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, but for many the resulting weight loss after starting a gluten free diet has to do with elimination of simple carbohydrates such as breads and desserts, and replacing these foods with fruits, vegetables, quinoa or brown rice.

Keep in mind that many gluten free products intended to replace their gluten filled counterparts are often made with rice, corn or potato flours. These simple carbohydrates are readily converted into glucose in the bloodstream and will spike blood sugars faster than complex carbohydrates containing fiber which will slow down the release of glucose. For this reason, simply replacing a standard diet with the exact gluten free variety may yield in higher blood glucose values after a meal for those with Type 2 Diabetes.

While gluten free options are handy for those who require it, perhaps going gluten free is not for everyone. If you have any questions regarding whether or not you feel a gluten free diet would be beneficial to you, talk with your doctor or a Registered Dietitian. Always look at nutrition labels to keep a gage of how many carbohydrates are in a serving, and listen to what your body says is right for you.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Type2Diabetes.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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