What is a Gluten-Free Diet?

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Are you considering a gluten-free diet? Have you recently gone to the doctor and they recommended that you adopt a gluten-free diet? Or maybe a friend suggested you to try a gluten-free diet because it is healthier.

There are so many reasons to adopt a gluten-free diet. If you have heard about this diet before and have no idea how to go about it, then this is the article for you. Reading this article will teach you the basic, the benefits. In fact, everything about the so called Gluten-free diet.

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So to start, what is the Gluten-Free Diet?

A Gluten-free diet is basically a kind of diet that has not protein gluten in it. Gluten can normally be  found in rye, wheat and barley.

This protein will have an effect on two types of people:

People who have been diagnosed with the Celiac disease. These people have no choice but to completely avoid gluten because it will have a very unwanted effect on them. The primary function of this diet is to treat people with this disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune system that responds negatively to gluten. What usually happens is that once the body senses that there is the presence of gluten, the immune system kicks in, damaging villi in the small intestine. Villi are microscopic finger-like structures that line up the inside of the small intestines and are used for the absorption of nutrients from the small intestines and into the bloodstream. This damaging and flattening of the villi is commonly known as villous atrophy. The effects may also include intestinal inflammation.

One of the effects of damaging the villi could be chronic malnutrition which will eventually lead to weight loss and exhaustion. People with this disease have no other choice but to follow a gluten-free diet.

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Gluten intolerant people. These are not the same as people with Celiac disease. Gluten intolerant people are people whose stomachs simply do not accept the gluten they ingest. Once ingested, they may experience, flu-like symptoms, bloating of the stomach, gastrointestinal problems, fatigue and so much more.

While there is a test for Celiac disease, there is no developed test yet for gluten intolerance. It is good to talk to a doctor to determine whether you are gluten intolerant or suffering from Celiac disease.

With either conditions, there is a need to stick to a gluten-free diet. Starting such a diet and sticking to it is not a walk in the park. This is arguably one of the trickiest yet easiest diets to keep up with. However, with patience and a little creative mind, this could turn out to be a fun diet to adapt.

Since there is a diet involved, what kind of foods are allowed for a gluten-free diet?

Allowed Food:

  • Natural and unprocessed beans, nuts and seeds
  • Fresh eggs
  • Most dairy products.
  • Fresh meat, poultry and fish
  • Vegetables and fruits
  • Grains and nuts that are gluten-free

When buying, it is really necessary to ensure that they are not mixed with grains that contain additives and preservatives.

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There are grains and nuts that are gluten-free, and these includes the following:

  • Cornmeal and corn
  • Arrowroots
  • Buckwheat
  • Millet
  • Rice
  • Soy
  • Tapioca among others

And you have to avoid these kind of foods:

  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Wheat
  • Triticale
  • Medication and vitamins that have gluten as their binding agent

Gluten-Free Diet

When it comes to beer, one can only take a beer if it is gluten-free. However, among beers that should be avoided are ales, malts, lagers, because these beers also contain gluten.

This does not mean that one should avoid alcohol entirely. As a matter of fact, alcoholic drinks do not have gluten in them. Hard liquors and wines are some alcoholic drinks  that are safe to drink.

There are other kinds of drinks that you can take like sports drinks, soft drinks, and water. Water should be drunk regularly. Most drinks do not actually contain gluten.

There are other foods that should be avoided unless explicitly stated that they are gluten-free.
Such foods include:

  • Breads
  • French fries
  • Candies
  • Cereals
  • Pasta
  • Dressings
  • Sauces
  • Rice mixes
  • Gravies
  • Tortilla chips and potatoes
  • Vegetables with sauce
  • Oats
  • Pies and cakes
  • Processed luncheon meats

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Oats may get contaminated with Gluten during processing, something called cross contamination. We are going to cover how to avoid cross contamination later in this article.

Most cheeses are gluten-free.

The best thing to do when faced with uncertainty is to ask the manufacturer for clarification. For a gluten-free diet, vigilance is required. There is, however, a rise in popularity of gluten-free diets as more people are becoming aware of it.

Is there any risk of cross-contamination?

Yes.

Cross-contamination happens when foods (especially gluten-free) mix with foods that contain gluten. This mostly happens during manufacturing  with an example of wheat and oats. The same machines used for the processing of wheat are the same ones used to process oats.

Cross-contamination can also happen at home when surfaces that handle food are not well cleaned and gluten-free foods get contaminated.

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Are there risks involved in adopting a gluten-free diet?

Risks involved

One is liable to suffer from a deficiency in certain vitamins. However, there is the need to make sure that you get the essential elements in your body. These elements include:

  • Iron
  • Folate
  • Calcium
  • Fiber
  • Niacin
  • Riboflavin
  • Thiamin

Another risk that can be involved is not actually sticking to the diet. A gluten-free diet requires a lot of discipline. Most of the times, one may fail to stick to the diet unknowingly. Buying products that contain gluten without knowing thus, awareness is very important.  That’s why you have to make sure to read the labels carefully.

As mentioned before, in case of any doubt, contact the manufacturer of the product.

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Mistakes involved

There are some mistakes made by people on this diet. One of them is confusing gluten-free and wheat-free.

Just because a product is wheat-free does not mean it is gluten-free. Gluten is not only found in wheat. While buying wheat products, make sure they are gluten-free and have a label indicating that. The good thing about it is that there are emerging wheat products that are actually gluten-free.

Believing that just because the symptoms are not there, then it is safe to ingest gluten.

The effects are still the same for people who suffer from the celiac disease, whether the signs show or not. Ingesting even small quantity of gluten may end up causing a lot of complications in the future. This might eventually lead to ailments such as colon cancer.

It is also important to get tested if you suspect that you might have celiac disease. Only through testing can one determine whether they have the disease. Do not rely on word of mouth from relatives who think they know the signs.

Believing that going gluten-free will cause weight loss.

While it may cause weight loss, going gluten-free might also lead to the gaining of weight.

How?

Manufacturers are now bringing products full of calories in the market but are gluten-free. This may lead to an individual loading themselves with junk food that is gluten-free, but which will eventually lead to weight gain.

When handled well, however, a gluten-free diet can really lead to loss of weight. That is only if you substitute foods full of gluten with vegetables and fruits.

Ignoring a balanced diet

The same way gluten-free does not mean wheat-free, gluten-free does not necessarily spell out balance diet. While this diet is highly restrictive, it is important to make sure that you have a balanced diet with every meal. Your dietitian should be able to help you pick the right balance diet. Research can also help one to pick out some interesting meal plans for your gluten-free diet.

Can a gluten-free diet be used by individuals who do not suffer a celiac disease and aren’t gluten intolerant to lose weight?

Yes.

Losing Weight

A lot of people are also turning to gluten-free diets to lose weight. True to the effect, a lot of manufacturers are bringing in products that are supposedly gluten-free to draw in the masses. People lose weight on a gluten-free diet, not because they are eating more gluten-free material, but because they are cutting the amount of food they eat across the board.

What should one do in the event they want to lose weight?

Eat more Vegetables- eating more should not be the option. but rather, eating more vegetables and fruits should be. On meals such as lunch and dinner, it is recommended that half your plate should contain vegetables.

Plenty of vegetables deprive the body of calories which are used by the body as a form of energy. Therefore the body turns into stored fat for energy. This leads to loss of weight.

Exercise- Exercising is another way of burning calories in the body. A fully grown human being is required to exercise at least thirty minutes a day. Exercise, together with drinking lots of water will help definitely help you in losing weight.

Watch those calories- It is easy to add up on our calories without knowing. Therefore it is safer to watch the number of calories we take and get into our bodies. Gluten-free does not mean calorie-free. This is something much of the people are confuse a lot of times and they end up eating food packed with calories without being aware of.

Discipline- Following all the steps once a week is not going to cut it. Vigilance is required when going gluten-free. This diet is very restrictive and while everything out there may look interesting, it is important that you stick to your diet plan. This is the only way to ensure that you reach your goals.

Conclusion

Taking up a gluten-free diet might seem like an uphill task. The truth of the matter is, it is what you actually want it to be. With the gluten-free wave hitting all corners of the world, it is actually easy to carry on with this diet from anywhere; even restaurants without having to worry.

A gluten-free diet is healthy, engaging and fun to adapt, and when done correctly, one would not regret to go the gluten way.

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