What Is A Gluten-Free Diet & Who Should Consider Taking It?

In this guide, we’ll learn a little bit about what a Gluten-Free Diet is and know if it’s worth the hype too. So, stay with us till the end. Bearing in mind, many people choose to avoid eating gluten, a protein found in wheat. There are many reasons that may prompt an individual to avoid gluten in their diet, including a wheat allergygluten intolerance, sensitivity, etc.

Some may even have a form of digestive health condition or even celiac disease (an autoimmune condition where gluten causes white blood cells to attack the lining of the intestine).  Meaning, that after a diagnosis of celiac disease, you will want to know about the gluten-free diet. Gluten — the main protein in kernels of wheat, rye, and barley grains — is the key.

For one thing, it’s what triggers the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine in people with this condition. There’s even a lot of buzz about a gluten-free diet going around. More so, with everyone from celebrities to pro athletes touting the benefits of a gluten-free diet. But, these diets aren’t for everyone as Selvi Rajagopal, M.D. explains.

Not only that, but any change to a diet can be quite challenging. Particularly, if it means you need to avoid favorite foods or begin to prepare meals in new ways. But, as you become accustomed to what you can eat, you will be able to adapt to new foods. Whilst, eliminating foods that have non-celiac and that can cause gluten sensitivity symptoms.

What Is A Gluten-Free Diet?

Basically, a Gluten-Free Diet regimen of eating and drinking that excludes any foods that contain gluten — a protein found in wheat and several other grains. In other words, this means eating only whole foods that don’t contain gluten. Such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and eggs — as well as processed gluten-free foods like gluten-free bread or pasta.

To enumerate, Gluten is a protein naturally occurring in certain foods, but it can also be added to foods during processing for texture. Not to mention, it can be used as a binding agent and flavoring, so you can sometimes find it in foods you wouldn’t expect. In addition to foods like pizza, pasta, cereal, and baked goods, gluten can be in everything else.

From soy sauce and ice cream to certain medications, beauty products, and dietary supplements. In reality, this means that it can be quite hard to avoid them, especially, if you want to manage symptoms in this case. That’s why together with this guide, you’ll need to know more about food labeling and ingredient names— for success with a gluten-free diet.

Of course, it may take some time (and a few mistakes), yes! But, it’s an effort worth trying. Unfortunately, some people think going on a gluten-free diet means not eating any carbohydrates at all — but this isn’t the case. For one thing, lots and lots of foods stuff that contains carbs, such as rice, potatoes, and beans, don’t contain gluten.

Who Should Eat A Gluten-Free Diet?

Important to realize, that most people who follow a gluten-free diet do so because they’re using it to treat a specific health condition. As we mentioned, the best-known health condition that responds to a gluten-free diet is celiac disease — it affects about 1% of the global population. As well as gluten sensitivity or the skin disorder dermatitis herpetiformis.

Equally important, it may also be quite helpful for some people with irritable bowel syndrome. As well as the neurological disorder gluten ataxia, type 1 diabetes, and HIV-associated enteropathy. Beyond this, there’s little evidence that it offers any particular health benefits. However, it can still be a healthy way to eat depending on the gluten-free foods choice.

In addition to how often you eat them and whether your other food choices are healthy ones. People who adopt a gluten-free diet often lose weight alike. But, it’s usually because they also cut out a lot of processed foods and refined carbohydrates that contain gluten. However, avoiding gluten doesn’t stop there, though!

Keep in mind, that gluten is an ingredient in many processed foods. In certain soups, gluten grains act as thickeners. Barley malt is often used as a sweetener in candy and cookies. While in beer and some forms of liquor, gluten grains are fermented to make alcoholic brews. Also, avoid conventional bread, pasta, cakes, cookies, and most cereals.

As well as hidden processed glutens in:
  • Biscuits, flour tortillas, and breading
  • Salad dressings (bottled and packaged)
  • Self-basting poultry, soups, and gravies
  • Seasoned chips, fries, soy sauce, and miso
  • Certain candies (like licorice and Twizzlers)
  • Breakfast foods (like crepes, waffles, and pancakes)
  • Over-the-counter medications and vitamin supplements
  • Meat substitutes (including veggie burgers and crab sticks)
  • Processed meats (like hot dogs, cold cuts, and salami)
  • Pre-seasoned meats, crackers, and croutons
  • Alcoholic products like beer, etc.

If you stop eating gluten to lose weight, it’s important to watch your portion sizes too. As well as do some regular exercise and eat plenty of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins. With that in mind, let’s elaborate further on the most recommended people for this dietary plan.

Unless you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or a gluten-related disorder, it isn’t necessary to adopt a gluten-free diet. There are claims that going gluten-free can help control headaches, depression, fatigue, and weight gain, but these are not scientifically proven yet.

For People Who Are Sensitive To Gluten 

Gluten is hidden in many products, especially packaged and processed foods. The main symptoms of gluten-related disorders are quite extensive. They may include bloating, stomach pain, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, acid reflux, etc. As well as headache, “brain fog,” bone pain, and dermatitis, among other non-celiac gluten sensitivity issues.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity — sometimes called gluten intolerance — is a condition that may prompt someone to cut down gluten from their diets. “We don’t have a clear definition for gluten intolerance or a clear way to explain it,” says Rajagopal. “We know that some people eat something that contains gluten and then they don’t feel well.”

It’s, therefore, important not to assume that gastrointestinal irritation is the result of gluten. If you think you may have a gluten intolerance, Rajagopal recommends working with a physician. And then again, work with a registered dietitian to get to the bottom of your symptoms. There isn’t a test for gluten intolerance, so a process of elimination is worth it.

For instance, the low FODMAP diet,” according to Rajagopal. This is a temporary eating plan that eliminates lots of foods that can irritate the gut, including wheat-based products. If gluten is the source of the irritation, you may notice an improvement in symptoms. Such as bloating, constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, gas, stomach pain, etc.

For People With Celiac Disease And Wheat Allergy

On one hand, a gluten-free diet is necessary for people with celiac disease as we mentioned. Not forgetting, that this’s an autoimmune response to gluten that causes the body to attack the small intestine. Whilst, causing belly pain, nausea, bloating, or even diarrhea. People with celiac disease can’t tolerate gluten in any form.

Thus, they need to follow a gluten-free diet for the rest of their lives. Furthermore, if you have celiac and accidentally eat gluten, you’ll probably experience the same symptoms you did before you went gluten-free. Realistically, celiac disease can also lead to malnutrition and anemia (a condition that changes how well your red blood cells work).

In addition, it can also lead to osteoporosis too (a bone condition, and many other potentially serious health issues). On the other hand, people with a wheat allergy should avoid certain foods containing gluten, but not because of gluten. Simply, because of the after-effects of wheat.

Whereby, it triggers an immune response in their bodies — which can cause gluten sensitivity symptoms such as a skin rash, headache, or sneezing. But, they can still eat gluten in other grains. Some of these grains include oats, quinoa, millet, amaranth, and corn.

How To Get Started With A Gluten-Free Diet

First of all, if you’re interested in trying a gluten-free diet, talk to a physician or a registered dietitian. They can guide you toward a balanced eating plan that meets your unique nutritional needs. Generally, good gluten-free diet choices include naturally gluten-free foods. Such as lean meats, low-fat dairy, vegetables, fruit, whole gluten-free grains, and healthy fats.

Studies suggest that the nutritional quality of commercially prepared gluten-free products varies from similar gluten-containing products. In several countries, for example, commercially prepared gluten-free foods are lower in protein than their conventional counterparts. In the U.S., gluten-free foods tend to be lower in folate, thiamin, riboflavin, and niacin.

On one side, this may be because in this country most wheat products are enriched with folic acid, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron. While, on the other side, gluten-free flours, cereals, and bread products typically are not. However, gluten-free whole grains, such as amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat, teff, millet, corn, and rice, are a very great start.

For one thing, they are good natural sources of folate, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, and iron — as well as protein and fiber. However, healthcare providers recommend that people not start eating gluten-free before being tested for celiac disease. That’s because you need to be consuming gluten for celiac disease testing to be accurate.

Tips for those with celiac disease to know:
  • Read ingredient labels carefully for any traces of wheat
  • Oftentimes, check for warnings on processed foodstuff packages
  • Always remember, that some artificial colors and seasonings also contain gluten
  • Products that don’t contain gluten may have been processed in a facility with other gluten products
  • Keep kitchen utensils, dishes, and other food prep items that are used for gluten-containing foods separate
  • Substitute oat, buckwheat, quinoa, or other gluten-free or alternative grain flours for wheat flour in cooking /baking

It is important not to replace gluten-containing foods with more red meat, full-fat dairy, starchy vegetables, sweets, and fats. This can lead to a higher intake of cholesterol, saturated fat, sodium, and unwanted calories. It’s also prudent to limit commercially prepared gluten-free snacks and bakery products, which are typically high in refined goods.

Including carbohydrates, fat, sugar, and salt — just like their gluten-containing counterparts. It’s important to note that foods with no gluten ingredients aren’t necessarily gluten-free. Since they could be subject to gluten cross-contamination in processing. The growing demand for gluten-free products means they can be found in many grocery stores.

Tips to choose the right gluten-free diet products:
  • All fresh fruits and vegetables are safe to consume on a gluten-free diet
  • Keep in mind, that anything that comes prepackaged might not be 100% gluten-free
  • In the meat section, stick to beef, poultry, pork, and seafood that doesn’t contain marinades
  • Avoid additional and unnecessary ingredients when buying food. Basically, as long as it’s plain, it’s safe.
  • Rice and quinoa are both good choices to add to your diet. Just be certain to buy plain varieties of these starches
  • Potatoes and tomatoes can also be a good choice — although you’ll need to watch how they’re prepared
  • Bring your own food to gatherings where you don’t think there’s no enough gluten-free food for your provision

While these tips can apply to eating at home, it is more difficult when you want to dine out. You will need to look for dishes labeled gluten-free or closely question your server. The good news is that gluten-free menu labeling has become much more common in recent years. As of today, many restaurants offer gluten-free options for favorites like pasta.

Naturally, to eliminate gluten from your diet, try to eat more whole foods. Including fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and gluten-free grains like rice, oats, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, and amaranth. And then again, always make sure that you read product labels and learn the different terms they use to describe wheat in their packaged and processed foods.

Related Topic: 5 Rules To Follow For Safe Gluten-Free Restaurant Dining

Packaged goods have fewer vitamins and minerals than fresh, and whole foods too. As such, a gluten-free diet also may help you to consume more needed nutrients. There’s actually quite a long list of reliably safe gluten-free foods. But, overall, one great way to approach a gluten-free diet is to stick to whole foods.

Often, gluten is also added to many foods stuff. Obviously, because most manufacturers prize the texture and other characteristics that they add to their products. For example, wheat bread gets its distinctive texture from gluten. While cakes and pasta stick together instead of crumbling because of the gluten protein.

You can also purchase foods specifically certified gluten-free by an independent organization. The gluten-free diet also may help you to consume more needed nutrients. Fortunately, following a gluten-free diet doesn’t mean you have to avoid all grains. There are a number of grains that are naturally gluten-free.

Learn More: 8 Gluten-Free Grains (And Why You Should Eat Them)

And now, as can be seen, people with celiac disease must avoid gluten in order to control symptoms. It also can be important to know that you have a celiac diagnosis so that you can watch for related health issues. Any food that contains wheat, barley, or rye contains gluten. A hybrid of wheat and rye, called triticale, also is a gluten source.

Luckily, there are ways to make the process of going gluten-free easier. You can, for example, download a smartphone app to help you identify products and restaurants that cater to those who are gluten-free. You can also check in with your favorite grocery store. Specifically, to see if it maintains lists of gluten-free products or labels the products on its shelves.

Are There Risks To Trying A Gluten-Free Diet?

Eventually, if you cut all gluten out of your diet, there’s a risk that you could miss out on nutritious whole grains, fiber, and micronutrients. Getting enough whole grains in your diet is especially important if you’re at risk for heart disease or diabetes. Whole grains can lower cholesterol levels and even help regulate your blood sugar.

In addition, some gluten-containing foods are sources of important vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, iron, and magnesium. Keep in mind that some processed gluten-free foods contain high amounts of unhealthy ingredients such as sodium, sugar, and fat. Consuming these foods can lead to weight gain, blood sugar swings, high blood pressure, etc.

So, a gluten-free label doesn’t necessarily make a food healthy. If you don’t have celiac disease or gastrointestinal irritation, Rajagopal recommends removing highly processed foods from your diet before removing gluten. Add in more fruits, vegetables, whole-grain bread or pasta, and lean proteins. You’ll feel better by eating well, not by removing gluten.

Actually, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest that people actually go through “withdrawal” when not on gluten. Some people report feeling dizziness, nausea, extreme hunger, and even anxiety and depression when they suddenly go from eating a lot of gluten to being gluten-free. Usually, with a gluten-free diet, these symptoms go away in a few weeks.

Final Thoughts:

In nutshell, people who have celiac disease follow a gluten-free diet so that they avoid intestinal symptoms caused by their body’s immune response to gluten. This also helps to reduce the risk of developing a related health condition. The gluten-free diet requires you to avoid all products made with wheat, rye, barley, or crossbred grains like triticale.

It also means avoiding any surprise ingredients made with them or the possibility of cross-contamination of foods, whether during the manufacturing process or at home. Many companies comply with the FDA rules for gluten-free labeling. So, be sure to learn how the independent certification process works and how to read the product store labels.

Overall, starting a gluten-free diet may seem intimidating but it has its benefits. When you eat gluten-free, it also means you become far more aware of what goes into your food and how it’s made. This may lead to better health outcomes that make it all worthwhile. Suffice to say, that gluten can hide under various ingredient names on a food label.

You’ll need to figure out where it hides in order to avoid it. Many companies use bold labeling that has a symbol or states “gluten-free.” This makes it easier for people to identify products without looking at the ingredients. That’s it! All that you need to know about gluten and a gluten-free diet plan. Have you tried it yet? How is it taking you so far?

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