A gluten-free diet eliminates the protein called gluten found in wheat, barley and rye. This diet can be a big change if you are not used to it, but with time and patience, you will be able to find many options of foods to eat and enjoy. You should only follow a gluten-free diet if you have celiac disease, a wheat allergy, or a gluten sensitivity, since these grains contain nutrients that are good for your body.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which gluten consumption causes inflammation in the small intestine. Common symptoms for celiac patients are abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea, decreased appetite, weight loss and nausea and vomiting. A gluten-free diet can eliminate the symptoms of celiac disease and help to prevent related complications. Celiac patients must avoid gluten for the remainder of their lives to avoid health issues related to gluten.
If you have been suffering from symptoms related to gluten but do not have celiac disease, you may have a gluten sensitivity. Common symptoms include gastrointestinal issues, headaches, foggy mind and joint pain. According to Celiac Central, 18 million Americans have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. To eliminate symptoms, gluten must be eliminated from the diet. Patients with gluten sensitivity often feel much better once gluten is reduced from their diet. Talk to your physician if you think that you may have gluten sensitivity.
Increased Nutrient Absorption
According to Celiac Central, celiac disease causes the lining of the small intestine to become damaged. The lining is covered in villi, hairlike extensions that absorb nutrients. When people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity eat gluten, their immune system reacts by damaging the villi. The damage affects their ability to absorb nutrients, which can cause malnutrition. By completely eliminating gluten, these symptoms can be drastically reduced. The villi will grow back and nutrient absorption will be restored.
Variety of Whole Grains
Many whole grains are gluten-free. A benefit of eating whole grains is that they contain more fiber, vitamins and minerals than refined grains. Healthy whole-grain, gluten-free options include quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, buckwheat, flax and millet. Check the label of oat products to ensure they are gluten-free, since they may contain a trace of gluten. Limit refined gluten-free grains and flours such as tapioca or potato flour, which do not contain many nutrients.
Amanda Hernandez is a registered dietitian who holds a Master of Arts degree in family and consumer sciences with an emphasis in dietetics from Western Michigan University. Her work has been featured in "Women's World" and "Women's Day" magazines. She writes for nutritionistreviews.com and has been a nutrition writer since 2010.