So Why Should I go Gluten Free?

As people learn more about it, the gluten-free diet is becoming very popular.  But why?  There are several important reasons why going gluten free may be good for you and change your life:

Celiac disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that is known to afflict at least 1 in 133 people in the US.  However, because the symptoms of Celiac disease are so diverse, it is likely that many more people may have it without even knowing it.  Those with Celiac disease suffer from an abnormal immune system response to gluten that damages their small intestine.  This in turn, affects the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and leads to many other serious problems.  If you think you may have some Celiac disease symptoms and want to learn more, please see our
Celiac disease page.  The only  treatment for Celiac disease is adhering to a completely gluten free diet for the rest of your life.  This can be hard, which is why we offer gluten free recipes and gluten free meal plans to help ease this burden.   

Wheat Allergy 

A lot of people are just allergic to wheat, but haven’t realized it's causing their problems because it is so common in so many types of foods.  In fact, wheat allergy is recognized as one of the top ten most common food allergies. 

Nonceliac Gluten Sensitivity

Just because you don’t have Celiac disease or a wheat allergy, it doesn’t mean that gluten doesn’t adversely affect your body.  Another condition, called “nonceliac gluten sensitivity” causes many of the same symptoms as celiac disease (digestive issues, fatigue, neurological problems, headaches, depression), but without the abnormal autoimmune response.  It is not known for sure how many people suffer from gluten sensitivity.  Some estimates claim that 18-20 million americans are affected by this disorder, and others indicate that it may be as high as 50 to 70 percent of the population.  Gluten sensitivity is more prevalent than Celiac disease and wheat allergy.  Additionally, the symptoms usually present in a more gradual way than with Celiac disease or an allergic response, making it even more difficult to diagnose. 

Wheat is not very Digestible Anyway

Humans are ill-equipped to digest wheat.  Unlike cows, we lack the enzymes in our saliva and stomach to fully break down and absorb gluten for nutritional use.  In fact, did you know that cows have four separate chambers in their stomachs, just to help them digest the roughage they eat?  We only have one.    A significant portion of wheat or gluten containing foods just gets passed right through us without offering much nutritional value.  To make things worse, this “pass-through” does not usually occur without causing problems.   The undigested portions ferment and lead to gas (burps and farts). 

Refined Wheat has Low Nutritional Value

The wheat refinement process strips so much of the nutrition that it doesn’t really contribute much to your health.  Because of the loss of nutrients, manufacturers attempt to “enrich” these foods, but even following enrichment, the nutritional value is still very low. 

Wheat is a pro-inflammatory agent

The digestible portions of wheat rapidly convert to sugar upon consumption.  This causes a responsive spike in the body’s insulin levels, which, in turn, rapidly accelerates inflammation at the cellular level. 

Health Problems

Even for those without Celiac disease, a wheat allergy, the consumption of gluten may lead to health problems.  For example, a skin rash condition known as dermatitis herpetiformis has been linked to gluten intolerance.  Consuming wheat may also lead to “leaky gut syndrome”.  Leaky gut syndrome is a condition in which toxins from the digestive system, which normally are not absorbed, are allowed to leak into the bloodstream.

Healthy Lifestyle

Some people don’t notice any gluten related problems but decide to adopt a gluten free diet just to live a healthier lifestyle.  You may want to try going gluten free just to see how your body responds.  You could have a minor disagreement with gluten that you never even realized.  You may notice increased energy, less bloating and overall sense of well-being.  Doctors and nutritionists frequently see patients who simply feel healthier and more energetic when they're eating gluten free.

Even many endurance athletes, who are used to loading up on carbs from bread and pasta, have reported switching to a gluten free diet and benefiting.  For example, Dr. Allen Lim, a former exercise physiologiest for the Garmin-Transitions pro cycling team, and Jonathan Vaughters, Garmin’s founder and CEO, suggested that their squad switch to a gluten free diet.  Well versed in the idea of carb loading with pasta before races, the riders objected at first.   However, once the team leader, Christian Vande Velde, experimented with going gluten free during the racing season, he reported, “I was pleasantly surprised.  I just had all-around better digestion, and digestion is the biggest thing in utilizing the energy I consume.”  Another teammate, Tom Danielson, had a similar experience when he started a gluten free diet during the Tour of Missouri in 2008.  He said, “My performance really improved a lot.  There was definitely a correlation.  I think my digestion is better, and because of that my sleep is better and my recovery is better.”   Many athletes who stop eating wheat, dispite having no real problems with gluten digestion, still experience weight loss and performance and digestion benefits.  These athletes are still getting the carbs they need, just from other more easily digested sources. 

In addition to the mere fact of eliminating gluten, which can be beneficial by itself, going gluten free also often leads to a healthier all around diet.  Cutting back on cookies, cake, hamburger buns, and refined bread means less sugar, salt, and processed foods with chemical fillers that make it into your diet.  Our gluten free meal plans not only focus on eliminating wheat products, but also on maintaining a healthy gluten free diet. 
Sources:

1.  "Winning without wheat", Mens’s Journal, http://www.mensjournal.com/health-fitness/nutrition/winning-without-wheat-20120820

2."how a cow eats grass", US Food and Drug Administration, Animal and Veterinary, http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/ResourcesforYou/AnimalHealthLiteracy/ucm255500.htm

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