A recent discussion on my personal Facebook page got my gear wheels turning today. The discussion surrounded the topic of the gluten-free diet craze. Even though I've mentioned it before in other blog posts, maybe I should address this to help those confused or frustrated by the gamut of information guised as fact. I have mentioned my own celiac disease and food allergies upon occasion,; however, I certainly don't feel that I am super-qualified to be a gluten-free, allergy-friendly blogger. Sure, I follow a strict diet to avoid getting really sick, but I discover more and more over time. So, here it goes!
Just some background information about celiac disease and gluten-sensitivity might dispel some concerns, while it might warrant further investigation for some of my readers. According to Celiac.com, 1 in 133 Americans has celiac disease, a genetic disorder autoimmune in nature, that causes a host of symptoms such as diarrhea, stomach pain, weight loss/gain and malnutrition which, in turn, causes other serious problems. The person's immune system attacks the small intestine causing damage when the presence of wheat, barley or rye are detected. The solution is to follow a life-long gluten-free diet, no easy feat! Gluten appears in breads, cereals, pastas, soups, sauces, fillers, and preservatives. It can also be found in toothpaste, mouthwash, cosmetics, personal care products, seasonings, and medications. Following a gluten-free diet strictly takes a tremendous amount of diligence.
There is also something called gluten-intolerance that is not celiac disease. In the presence of gluten, the body's immune system doesn't attack one's own body, rather it responds unfavorably when gluten is ingested. An inflammation is caused in the digestive tract causing headaches, fatigue, joint pain and more. Follow this link for more detailed info http://www.celiac.com/articles/23091/1/Celiac-Disease-vs-Gluten-Sensitivity-or-Gluten-Intolerance/Page1.html. Once the gluten is removed from the diet, the person's body returns to normal with no lasting damage, unlike celiac.
So why are people going gluten-free to as a weight loss method? There are a few reasons: lack of general inflammation and bloating by eliminating processed foods so the belly feels flatter, reduction in carbohydrate intake, someone who had celiac disease or gluten-intolerance lost weight so it seemed like a good idea. Think about this: if you had to pay three times as much for your food and your choices were limited, you would lose weight, too! Also, people tend to pay better attention to their food intake when they are aware of what they are eating. So it sounds good, doesn't it? Why not join in?
The reasons are numerous. The calorie count for a similar food item is higher while the fiber content is lower. You would have to be very mindful of fiber intake, which most fad dieters are not. Second, the nutritional content is not comparable. A lot of breads, cereals and pastas that are less expensive are usually rice and tapioca based. In order to get valuable nutrition going gluten-free, you must incorporate a number of different grains. For example, when I make multi-grain bread, I use brown rice, potato, amaranth, millet, flax, and oat flours. It gets pricy. What makes my bread more expensive and very dense (heavier) is that I am allergic to egg and must use a replacement called flax gel. These grains provide more fiber and protein, but triple the cost of a loaf compared to whole grain wheat bread at the store. Which brings about another reason: cost. A loaf of whole grain bread may cost $2.69 at the local grocery. A loaf of decent whole grain gluten-free bread costs between $5.50 and 6.50 per loaf. However, the loaf is much smaller and the slices are about half the size of the regular version. To be truly gluten-free, you must scrutinize the ingredients of EVERYTHING, becoming a huge time consumer. You also must use cookware that has not had anything with gluten cooked on or in it. To be honest, it is a pain in the neck! If you want to lose weight, follow the Grocery Cart Challenge and journal everything you eat. Save yourself the headache and expense.
However, if you are experiencing a host of symptoms such as stomach pain, bloating that isn't gasy, dizziness, fatigue, joint and muscle pain, loss of memory/words, thinning/early graying of hair, thin, brittle nails with ridges, talk to your doctor. Take the info from celiac.com with you and get tested. If you do have celiac disease or gluten-intolerance, it will take a while before you begin to feel better. I see an allergist who specializes in celiac/gluten sensitivity and food allergies. She has helped me so much! My older daughter, who clued me to get checked and try gluten-free, also has it. We share info back and forth to support each other. If you are found to have celiac, you must adhere strictly to a gluten-free diet; your life literally depends on it!
May God bless you!