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Everything You Need to Know About a Gluten-Free Diet!

Dr. Mehreen Zaman Niazi

3 min read

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A gluten-free diet is a diet that does not allow the consumption of gluten, which is a mixture of proteins present in wheat and other grains such as rye, barley, kamut, triticale, and spelt.

What Is Gluten?

It is a general name for proteins present in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. Gluten gives foods their shape and elasticity. It works like glue which holds food together. It also gives food a chewy texture. Of all the grains that contain gluten, wheat is consumed the most. The two main proteins present in gluten are gliadin and glutenin.

Why Is Gluten Bad For Some People?

The protein gliadin found in gluten can be detrimental to the health of some people. However, most people can easily tolerate gluten. People with certain health conditions may find it hard to consume gluten as it can cause problems for them. People who have gluten sensitivity, celiac disease, wheat allergy, gluten ataxia, and dermatitis herpetiformis cannot tolerate gluten. Celiac disease is the most extreme form of gluten intolerance. It affects nearly 1% of the population.

The Gluten-Free Diet and the celiac disease connection

If you have celiac disease, your body treats gluten like a foreign invader and your immune system reacts to it. This can damage the gut lining and causes symptoms of the celiac disease such as diarrhea, bloating, tiredness, nausea, and headaches. However, this only happens when you eat gluten. So, if you avoid all gluten, your gut will heal and your symptoms will get better.

You must follow a gluten-free diet all your life if you have celiac disease. A stick adherence to this diet will result in fewer complications and symptoms of the disease. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity may or may not be lifelong and you can get yourself tested again after following the diet for one to two years to check if you are still sensitive to gluten.

For those with celiac disease, you may actually gain weight on the gluten-free diet because your intestines will start to heal and you will begin absorbing nutrients again. Furthermore, gluten-free substitutes for breads, pastas, cookies, pizzas, etc. are sometimes higher in fat and sugar content compared to their gluten-filled counterparts. A one-to-one replacement of gluten-containing carbohydrates with gluten-free carbohydrates will not lead to weight loss. Gluten-free junk food is still junk food.

Are oats gluten-free? 

There is a bit of controversy around oats as to whether they contain gluten or not. Technically, oats are gluten free and most people with gluten-intolerance can safely consume them. However, the main issue is contamination as most oats are processed in factories that also process barley, wheat, and rye. If you are sensitive to gluten, look for oats that are labeled “gluten-free”.

A gluten-free diet can help manage symptoms of medical conditions related to gluten. The gluten-free diet is also gaining popularity among people who are not gluten intolerant. The reason behind this is that a gluten-free diet offers many benefits such as better health, increased energy, and weight loss.

Eliminating gluten from your diet may change your overall intake vitamins, fiber, and other nutrients. Therefore, it is essential to know how a gluten-free diet can affect your nutritional needs.

What can I eat if I am gluten intolerant? 

If you are gluten intolerant, you can eat all gluten-free foods such as fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, beans, eggs, meat, fish, poultry, and low-fat dairy products. You can also eat gluten-free grains and flour such as amaranth, arrowroot, corn, buckwheat, soy, rice, flax, quinoa, millet, and sorghum.

Make sure you read labels before buying processed foods to ensure they are gluten-free. Avoid foods such as bread, cakes, pies, cereals, candies, cookies, crackers, wafers, croutons, French fries, imitation meat, malt, pasta, sauces, salad dressings, soups, and seasoned snack foods unless they are labeled gluten-free.

Health Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet

A gluten-free diet, exclusively for people with celiac disease, has a lot of health benefits. Some of its benefits are given below:

May Relieve Digestive Symptoms

Many people try to treat digestive problems with a gluten-free diet. Some symptoms are bloating, diarrhea, constipation, gas, fatigue, etc.

According to some studies, individuals with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity can ease their digestive symptoms through a gluten-free diet.

In another study done on 215 individuals with celiac disease, the individuals showed significantly reduced stomach pain and the recurrence of diarrhea, nausea and other symptoms when they followed a gluten-free diet.

May Boost Energy

Celiac disease often causes people to feel sluggish, tired or experience “brain fog”. One of the causes of the symptoms is nutrient deficiencies because of damage to the gut. For instance, anemia is caused by an iron deficiency, which is ordinary in celiac disease.

A gluten-free diet can help with celiac disease revive energy levels and fend off being tired and sluggish.

A study was conducted on 1,031 individuals with celiac disease. 66% of them complained about fatigue. They were put on a gluten-free diet, and after that only 22% remained who still experienced fatigue.

If you feel you are sensitive to gluten, consult your doctor right away. You can find and book an appointment with top Gastroenterologist in Islamabad, Karachi and Faisalabad through oladoc.com. You can also call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your health concerns.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Mehreen Zaman Niazi - Author Dr. Mehreen Zaman Niazi is a Hepatologist practicing in Lahore. With MBBS, FCPS (Gastroenterology) and 10 years of experience in the field, she offers sound medical advice and services to patients for a range of medical conditions.
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