There seems to be a lot of confusion about gluten and the pros and cons of a gluten free diet. Gluten free diets are a necessity for people who are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease, but it has also become fashionable to go gluten free, because it is believed by some to be more healthy and useful for when you are trying to lose weight. The truth about gluten is not as clear cut as you might have thought though, so read these ten surprising facts about gluten and gluten free diets that you probably didn’t know.
1. What foods contain gluten?
Gluten is a protein that naturally occurs in food such as wheat, barley, corn and rye, so you will find gluten in bread, cookies, cakes, and similar types of baked and pastry products. You can also find gluten in many other types of products too, such as salad dressings, soups, sauces and beer. If you do have to follow a gluten free diet for medical reasons, then you will have to be careful and only buy guaranteed 100% gluten free products.
2. You can’t always trust a gluten free product
People who suffer from celiac disease, which is a disease of the small intestine that makes people hypersensitive to gluten, can’t trust all foods labelled as gluten free to be safe for them to eat. Some fast food outlets, for example, have started to advertise gluten free options, but the food is prepared side-by-side with food that does contain gluten, so cross-contamination is more than likely. Be careful.
3. A gluten free diet will not make you lose weight
Gluten is not what makes you put on weight, it’s calories that do and people frequently confuse a gluten free diet for a carbohydrate free diet. The only way to lose weight, as we all know, is to burn off more calories than you consume and, a gluten free diet is no better, or worse for you when you are trying to shed pounds.
4. A gluten free diet can alleviate migraines
What is true about gluten free diets is that it can be a huge help for people who suffer from frequent migraine headaches. In one particular study it was found that adopting a gluten free diet completely stopped migraine headaches for some patients.
5. Going gluten free isn’t always a healthy choice
Going gluten free isn’t, by any means, the key to instant health and vitality. In fact, going completely gluten free can actually be bad for your health. You get a lot of your fibre and nutrition from products that contain gluten. If you are going gluten free, then you would need to increase the amount of fruit and vegetables that you eat and make sure that you are getting enough iron, vitamin B and fibre in your diet.
6. Gluten free products often contain more salt and sugar
In any kind of pre-prepared food, you will find that manufactures often add more salt and sugar to add more flavour to food to compensate for something that they have taken out, in order that they can label it as being ‘healthy’. Just as a low fat food often contains extra added salt and sugar, so too do gluten free pre-packed food products.
7. You can find gluten in some beauty products
If you really do need to follow a gluten free lifestyle, then you will have to be careful about the cosmetic products that you use too. Gluten can’t be absorbed through the skin, but it’s very easy to ingest small amounts of beauty products by accident. Beauty product manufacturers use gluten as a stabilizer and an emulsifier in a lot of products, so hypersensitive people should look for gluten free products.
8. How do you know if you are sensitive to gluten?
The symptoms of gluten intolerance can include dizzy spells, migraine headaches, pains in the body and frequent outbreaks of eczema. The only way to tell whether the gluten intolerance is the cause of these problems, is to go gluten free for a while. If the symptoms clear up, then you have your answer!
9. How do you know if you have celiac disease?
When you have celiac disease, your immune system goes into overdrive when you consume gluten. The symptoms include weight loss, feeling very tired, bloating, feeling weak and experiencing pain throughout the body. The disease is a genetic one and it affects about one in every hundred people in the world. There is a specific medical test that can be performed, if you do suspect that you might be suffering from celiac disease.
10. A gluten free label has to now mean gluten free
Apart from the cross contamination problem already mentioned that can occur at fast food restaurants, in the US, at least, you can now rely on a gluten free label. In 2013, the Food and Drug Administration ruled that gluten free must mean that any gluten content there may be of food will be so low, as not to be any danger to anyone suffering with celiac disease. In other countries, we would strongly recommend, though, that you check what gluten free on a label really means.