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What is a Gluten Free Diet and Do I need it?

What is a Gluten Free Diet and Do I need it?
By Barbara Ross

TP 201902 nutrition 02

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TP 201902 nutrition 01

In the sphere of healthy living and nutrition, one of the most widely followed diet plans, especially now that we are in the first month of the New Year, is a gluten-free diet. More people have started opting for this particular kind of diet with the aim of becoming fitter and healthier.

 

While all diets are primarily aimed at achieving good health, it is important to remember that not all diets are necessarily applicable for everyone. Some of them are meant for people with specific health conditions, while others are suitable for the general population.

 

A gluten free diet, even though is rapidly gaining popularity, still remains to be a rather misunderstood concept. So it鈥檚 time to clear things up and analyse what it is and whether you need to follow it.

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What exactly is a gluten free diet?

 

A gluten free diet essentially involves excluding foods that contain the protein gluten. This means that you will be avoiding wheat, barley, rye and the like.

 

This kind of a diet has been mostly advised for people with celiac disease, as well as in some cases of gluten sensitivity. Some people tend to get intolerant to gluten, in which case, the protein should be avoided by all means.

 

Before we get into the details of the diet, let鈥檚 address the most basic question here.

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What is gluten?

As mentioned before, gluten is a kind of protein that is mostly found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt. It is also found in triticale, which is a cross between wheat and rye.

The name is derived from the Latin word for glue, as it has a sticky quality which can be seen when you mix wheat with water. It is also responsible for the chewy texture of bread and its ability to rise when baked.

TP 201902 nutrition 06When should you avoid gluten?

 

Now a lot of people tend to get adversely affected by this very substance called gluten; and celiac disease is one of the most serious effects.

 

Celiac disease is basically an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to harm itself and it has been found to effect up to 1% of the world鈥檚 population. It is an unfortunate condition which forces people to follow a gluten free diet failing which then can have very harmful consequences.

 

Some of the common symptoms or effects of celiac disease are diarrhoea, shooting stomach pains, constipation, bloating, weight loss, anaemia, skin rashes and also undue tiredness. Some people may also experience depression and fatigue.

 

Another case where a gluten free diet should be strictly followed is non-celiac gluten sensitivity, where the patient simply experiences discomfort on having gluten based foods. They may not test positive for celiac disease or gluten allergy, which makes it a bit more difficult to discover and diagnose. The symptoms, however, are very similar to that of celiac disease, which includes severe stomach pain, bloating, irregular bowel movements, skin rashes and the like.

 

These are two of the most common and serious conditions where a gluten free diet must be followed.

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Do you need to follow a gluten free diet?

 

In normal cases, that is in cases where a person is neither gluten-sensitive nor has celiac disease, there is no need to follow a gluten free diet. Wheat, barley and other such grains do have a number of nutritious qualities which can be beneficial for the body.

 

That being said, going gluten free does have a number of positive health benefits as well, which can drastically help people with celiac disease. Some benefits include:

 

- Relief from digestive issues like constipation, gas, bloating, diarrhoea, acidity, etc.
- Relief from inflammation in people with celiac disease
- Helps in weight loss
- Helps improve energy and reduce fatigue

 

It is generally not advised for people who are normally healthy, as going gluten free can cause some issues like constipation and nutritional deficiencies. Such a diet avoids fibres and a number of other nutritional elements found in grains and cereals, which can lead to an unbalanced diet.

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