Going gluten-free for weight loss? Think again

Dr. Angela Seabright
Melissa Waara

| 2 min read

Who really needs to eat a gluten-free diet?
Gluten is a type of protein found in the grains like wheat, barley, and rye. It’s a protein, not a carbohydrate, and can be found in items as processed food fillers, in medications, and even some beauty products. About one-percent of the population suffers from a disorder called Celiac Disease. Triggered by gluten, this disease causes the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine, causing damage. What happens when the small intestine is attacked? According to Harvard Medical School, symptoms include gas, bloating, constipation, headaches, diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss, and even malnutrition due to the inability to absorb vitamins and minerals. Therefore, a gluten-free diet is not usually a person’s attempt to lose weight, but a necessity for life.
Is gluten harmful to the average person?
Simply put, no. Gluten is found in many whole grain foods that have vitamins, minerals, and fiber. These foods help control blood sugar and cholesterol, and are considered “heart healthy.” Many people see “gluten-free” and assume it must be better for you. However, these items can be much more expensive and may be full of extra calories and sugars, to make up for taste and texture, not to mention, they lack many important vitamins and minerals. People afflicted with Celiac Disease really develop the skill of reading labels to look for hidden gluten and nutritional values.
Moving forward
According to Stefano Guandalini, MD, director of the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, a person who believes they are having a bad reaction to gluten should never start a gluten-free diet prior to being tested by their doctor. Being diagnosed with Celiac Disease requires a blood test and, depending on those results, a biopsy of the small intestine. If a person is already eating a gluten-free diet when being tested, the antibodies will slowly decrease and become normal, showing no signs of Celiac Disease.
How do you lose weight since it’s not as easy as going gluten-free?
This is simple. Eat a well balanced diet, not excluding any food group. Watch portion sizes, meal patterns, and get the recommended amount of exercise.
Photo credit: Jamailia Brinkley

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