Because the western diet is often way too heavy on carbohydrates, many people have started to cut down on products containing gluten, which are often carb-heavy, as a way of promoting better health and losing weight.
Going completely gluten-free is something only recommended for those with celiac disease and doctor-diagnosed non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
If you do not suffer from these health issues, it can actually damage your health to cut out gluten completely. Besides that, being truly gluten-free in your life can be much more difficult that a lot of marketing may suggest.
According to the health blog of the Harvard Medical School, “Gluten also lurks in many other products, including frozen vegetables in sauces, soy sauce, some foods made with “natural flavorings,” vitamin and mineral supplements, some medications, and even toothpaste.”
That said, cutting back on gluten is often associated with improvements to your overall health, usually because you end up eating fewer carbs and maintain a generally healthier diet as a consequence.
Getting to Know Gluten
Gluten is a protein that is most often found in wheat, barley, and rye. Over the last few decades, the sensitivity to this protein has increased, or at least our awareness of it has.
Gluten sensitivity is a fairly common digestive problem and celiac disease is the more severe form of this. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease affecting close to 1 percent of the population, and, if dietary changes are not made, this disease can seriously damage your digestive system.
Gluten sensitivity cannot be accurately diagnosed without blood tests, but there are some common signs indicating possible gluten sensitivity that you can look out for. If you notice them, or think you may have gluten sensitivity/celiac disease, speak to your doctor and get tested.
The good news is that by switching to a gluten-free or gluten-reduced diet, you can live a healthier life. So knowing what to look for is a good place to start.
Here are some of the symptoms:
Bloating is common after eating gluten, which can make you feel miserable. While bloating can be a sign of many other issues, it is also common in cases of gluten sensitivity.
Occasional diarrhea or constipation is normal with dietary changes, but when it is frequent, you may be looking at gluten sensitivity.
The gluten causes inflammation throughout your digestive tract, damaging the gut lining and leading to poor nutrient absorption. The result is irregular and uncomfortable bowel movements.
Abdominal pain is also common with gluten sensitivity and will be noticed directly after eating foods containing gluten.
Headaches and migraines have been reported in gluten-sensitive individuals. While an occasional headache is tolerable, repeated headaches, especially after eating, could be a sign.
Feeling tired could be from a lack of sleep or stress, but it is also linked to gluten sensitivity. Individuals that are sensitive to this protein are very prone to fatigue and tiredness, especially after eating.
Skin problems can occur with gluten sensitivity. A condition known as herpetiformis is a skin manifestation common with celiac disease.
Other skin conditions such as psoriasis, chronic urticaria (hives) and alopecia areata have been known to clear up once people changed to a gluten-free diet.
Weight loss, when unexpected, is a common side effect of undiagnosed celiac disease. The weight loss is typically attributed to poor digestion and inefficient absorption of essential nutrients.
Those with celiac disease are thought to also have a highly-sensitive nervous system, which means they have a lower threshold for the activation of the sensory neurons that cause pain. Individuals that are sensitive to gluten may therefore, experience frequent joint and muscle pains.
It’s Easy to Go Gluten-Free
Unlike some diets, going gluten-free does not mean you have to give up good food, as there are plenty of recipes to keep your palette happy.
For example, a cold Soba Noodle Salad is perfect for a light lunch or side dish to accompany any dinner. It’s not your typical salad, as there is no lettuce, but it is packed full of nutrients and great for those with gluten sensitivity.
Soba noodles are as common in Japanese cuisine as a carefully coiffed Zen garden and very popular in America now as well. They are made with buckwheat or brown rice and contain fewer carbohydrates than traditional noodles.
The chewy noodles mixed with crunchy cabbage are a quick and convenient meal for anyone following a gluten-free diet.
Gluten-Free Soba Noodle Salad
1 package of gluten-free soba noodles
½ small head of purple cabbage
¼ lb. washed and trimmed sugar snap peas
Sunflower microgreens (to use as garnish)
¼ cup toasted sesame oil
1/8 cup rice vinegar
½ small diced shallot
½ tablespoon black sesame
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Whisk the rice vinegar in a bowl with the toasted sesame oil; you should notice the oil and vinegar emulsify.
Add in the diced shallots, garlic powder and red pepper flakes and then set aside once well mixed.
Chop up the cabbage into thin slices and put in a large bowl.
Slice the snap peas in thirds and add to the cabbage.
Drizzle the dressing on top and mix well to make sure all the vegetables are coated.
Cook the soba noodles according to the package, drain and rinse.
Add them into the salad and mix thoroughly.
The Bottom Line
Even though gluten is widespread throughout our food, there are numerous options for gluten-free alternatives available. The popularity of gluten-free and gluten-reduced diets is growing so much, that these alternatives can be easily found and make modifying your diet very easy.
Remember, that if you do cut back on gluten, try to increase other nutrients and essential minerals to keep your diet balanced. Ultimately, cutting out gluten can enhance your health and improve your well-being.