Are you thinking about going gluten-free or starting a gluten-free diet? If so, it’s important to understand the pros and cons.
First, the biggest myth is that a gluten-free diet is a carb-free diet.
In reality, gluten is not a carb, but it’s a protein found in carb-rich foods like wheat, barley and rye.
Why do people willingly cut gluten from their diet?
1. Advice from professionals
2. Anecdotes from others who claim their health and metabolic issues disappeared
3. Million dollar marketing campaigns for gluten-free food products and books
When SHOULD you cut gluten from your diet?
1. The only time it’s necessary is if you have Celiac Disease; an autoimmune condition that leads to complete gluten intolerance
2. If you notice improvements in gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating, nausea, diarrhea, and constipation
3. If it makes you happy and feel better
Beyond Celiac or some improvements in digestive issues, there is no conclusive or compelling scientific research to support gluten abstinence. There are studies, however, showing negative effects of going gluten-free:
1. Increased consumption of refined carbs and empty calories (many gluten-free foods are less nutritious or have less fiber than their gluten-filled counterparts).
2. Weight gain and higher blood sugar levels
3. Lowered intake of iron, antioxidants and B-vitamins - while gluten itself doesn’t contain these nutrients, many gluten-free bread products are not fortified the same way.
And of course, gluten-free breads and bread products tend to come with a higher price tag making it hard to justify.
At the end of the day, like we always tell our clients, your body, your choice! Could it help? Even if the research is lacking now, it doesn’t mean it’s complete rubbish and we won’t have more evidence later. If you don’t have Celiac, but are dealing with other health issues and want to experiment with elimination diets, work 1:1 with a dietitian to ensure it’s balanced, safe and sustainable - RDs can help prevent the possible negatives of going gluten-free.