Is Gluten Bad for You?

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Unless you’re living under a rock, you’ve heard or seen a lot about gluten and gluten free diets. Gluten, a protein found in many grains, helps give breads and foods texture.  It’s not bad on its own, but some people are sensitive to this protein.

In the most extreme case, those with Celiac disease, the body can’t process the protein at all.  Even tiny amounts of gluten – or foods prepared near gluten – can trigger an attack that causes long term damage to the intestines.  Severe symptoms include stomach issues like vomiting or stomach cramps, weight loss, malnutrition and fatigue.  You’ll need a test to see if you’re one of the 1% of the population who has Celiac disease.  And if you have this condition, you’ll need to avoid gluten entirely.

But more and more people seem to be “sensitive” or “intolerant” of gluten – a similar though less dangerous condition than Celiac.  One of the reasons is the American diet which includes too many processed foods that always seem to contain gluten.  Over time, our bodies can become overloaded and eventually intolerant of the protein. 

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If you have recurring digestion, bloating, headaches, joint pain, brain “fog”, insomnia, fatigue and skin rashes, you may want to cut down on gluten to see if that helps relieve your symptoms. Some doctors recommend eliminating it entirely, then gradually adding it back to see how you feel and how much you can tolerate.

Just avoid a common mistake – substituting processed gluten free foods for the regular processed foods as the majority of your diet.  Studies show that doing so almost always results in weight gain.  Why?  As it turns out, most packaged or processed gluten free food is often higher in calories and fat in order to make up for some of the qualities and taste gluten provides. And just the experience of being able to eat your favorites without symptoms makes people think they can eat more. 

For those with Celiac the extra weight may be welcome.  But not for the rest of us!  For both groups, a diet high in fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables along with protein sources is the best choice.  Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  But it turns out the best medicine is a healthy diet.  That’s not to say you can’t have a treat now and then.  Just make sure your body has everything else it needs first. 

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All images from the MorgueFile.

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by on January 14th, 2014