Gluten is a protein that allows food to preserve their form and texture; it’s more commonly found on foods that contain wheat and rye. There are individuals that cannot properly digest this protein due to an inherited autoimmune disease called Celiac Disease. When individuals with Celiac disease digest gluten, the body auto attacks the lining of the stomach and damages the villi, which are a crucial part of the small intestine wall (What is Celiac Disease, 2018). As a result individuals with this disease have no other choice but to follow a gluten-free life style. However, with an uprising population of individuals trying new diets to maximize their health or lose weight, a gluten free diet has become a trend among a celiac free population.
According to medical news today a survey done by a research company suggest that about 30% of adults in the United States who do not have celiac disease are following a gluten free diet (Whiteman, 2018).This is a surprisingly high statistics , meaning that out of 100 adults in the United states , 30 follow a diet free of gluten . Due to the fact that most foods that contain gluten are labeled as processed foods high on sugar such as rice, pastas, breads and cereals, which in general are seemed as fattening foods; the increase of individuals eliminating gluten from their diets comes as no surprise. However, some individuals tend to forget that gluten not only contains fat and sugar but they serve as a good source of vitamins and minerals .As part of a society whose current generation has been raised on the idea that foods as mentioned above are more hazardous than beneficial a diet that was initially meant to treat a disease is now a life choice.
All diets have their pros and cons towards the health of an individual, and a gluten free diet is no different. It is crucial for people to educate themselves before following a diet without the consultation of a physician or dietician. In order to classify a gluten free diet as healthy choice for an individual to follow the benefits and risks must be acknoloweged and weighted.
Benefits of a gluten free diet
There are continuous research on the benefits of a gluten free diet, from improving cholesterol levels, promoting digestive health, increasing energy levels and improving symptoms of children with autism (The Health Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet). Due to the fact that most of the foods that contain gluten are in high in fats and are processed foods, eliminating the source could in fact promote a healthier lifestyle. Apart from individuals who must follow this diet due to intolerance to the protein, others could find benefits form it. Since it has been evident that this diet has a significant impact on lowering cholesterol levels as well as a good method of weight loss.
Since gluten rich food are high on carbohydrates which tend to lower peoples energy levels , by eliminating it , people feel more energized . As a results of removing gluten from their diets, people also find alternative sources of the vitamins and fibers which they lack due to no consumption of gluten rich foods. Such alternatives include fruits and vegetables, which provide more benefits than gluten itself. There is no significant evidence of any side effects or possible adverse effect from such diet that could present any possible risks to an individual’s health.
According to Dr. Kent Williams, a pediatrician from Children’s Hospital in Ohio, the improvements in behavior seen on kids with autism after following a diet free of gluten could be as a result of eliminating the processed foods high on fasts and sugar as required by this diet (How helpful is the casein-gluten-free diet?,2012). Dr. Williams’s states that there is no scientific evidence that by eliminating gluten improves behavior on these kids, but that it could be that this diet requires the elevation of foods that do impact an induvial behavior.
Risks of a Gluten free diet
Most foods that contain gluten are rich in vitamins and fibers, which are crucial for a person’s well-being. Individual’s following gluten free diet will have deficiencies that if is not supplemented by other means could in fact cause serious health issues. According to Holly Strawbridge , an editor for the Harvard health post , fortified breads and cereals are a major source of vitamin B in the United States and its even more worrisome for woman who want to become pregnant and need vitamin B9, also known as folic acid (Here’s what you need to know, 2018) . Meaning that individuals following a gluten free diet will have significant deficiencies of vitamins that are commonly acquired though gluten rich food and consequently will have to ingest these vitamins through medication .As mentioned above women following this diet will have no source of Folate which are extremely important for the development of a fetus in pregnancy . Folate or “folic acid” is crucial during pregnancy, since it prevents serious birth defects of the spinal cord and brain of the baby (Here’s what you need to know, 2018)
Foods that contain gluten are also a major source of fiber, which are important for the bowels to work properly (Here’s what you need to know, 2018) . As a consequence, individuals who could have frequent cases of constipation, which if untreated could lead to major health complications.
A balanced diet has always been the ideal recommended diet. However for those individuals with a health predisposition or intolerance such as Celiac disease a gluten free diet is not only recommended but obligatory .These individuals tend to have no significant health concerns due to this diet .As well in the case of those that take this diet as a personal lifestyle choice seem to receive more benefits than problems.
As we grow in a progressive technological society, the awareness of the importance of a healthier lifestyle increases and the population adheres to lifestyles that promote healthier choices. After careful consideration it seems safe to acknowledge that a gluten free diet could in fact be bringing in effect a healthier lifestyle.
Even thought that it seems that the benefits outweigh the risks, it is always wise to seek the advice and guidance of a medical professional or dietician.