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Benefits and Side Effects of The Gluten-Free Diet: Should I Go Gluten-Free?

Gluten is a type of protein that is found in grains such as wheat, rye, spelt and barley. If you’re suffering from gluten intolerance or celiac disease, then obvious to state, the gluten-free diet is a compulsory tangent to your overall wellbeing. 

When you consider the types of food that contain gluten, the numbers are uncountable. Almost everything contains gluten, be it bread, cereal, beverages or even sauces. Hence, the idea of going gluten-free is something of a nightmare for some people. Though this is the case, the gluten-free diet has become something of a fad, with more people who do not suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease opting to maintain a gluten-free lifestyle. Some people swear by the gluten-free diet and consider the hassle of avoiding products containing gluten to be well worth the effort when you consider the benefits of a gluten-free diet. 

There has to be some real advantages of the gluten-free diet to make it as popular as it is. We’ll be taking an in-depth look to better understand the various health benefits of a gluten-free diet and also take into consideration the various side effects and disadvantages of a gluten-free diet. When you are trying to decide for yourself if going gluten-free is for you, you have to weigh both sides of the equation to understand the merits of the so-called fad.  

Though the gluten-free diet has become somewhat of a fad, it is absolutely essential for those who suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance. 1 in every 133 Americans is sensitive to gluten. When it comes to gluten, most people who don’t suffer from gluten sensitivity simply don’t complain. In fact, most people don’t think gluten to be a terrible and horrible thing and doctors do advise that you don’t try to avoid gluten, just to follow the newest trend. This obviously means that gluten is important for your wellbeing and that unless you are sensitive to gluten, you shouldn’t work to avoid it. That being the case, the benefits of a gluten-free diet makes it rather appealing to many people, hence if you are here and are already reading this,  keep reading this word to word as we discuss things you need to know about gluten and the gluten-free diet including the various benefits and side effects of the gluten-free diet.

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What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Eating Gluten?

When you stop eating gluten, you are primarily sidestepping whole-grain foods like bread and pasta. These whole-grain foods are a great source of fibre. When you cut these foods from your diet, you automatically run the risk of developing a fibre deficiency. Unless of course, you balance your diet to include more fibre. 

Unless you balance your diet appropriately, you could experience constipation due to the lack of fibre in your digestive system. Hence, this is probably the first thing that happens to your body, you start experiencing frequent constipation. The best way to prevent this from happening is by balancing your diet to include a lot more leafy greens and legumes, which can provide your body with a wholesome amount of fibre.

Your body could go into a state of shock when you suddenly stop consuming gluten. You could start experiencing fatigue, even leg cramps. Headaches and nausea are common traits that follow the switch to a gluten-free diet. 

That being the case, you will experience a boost in energy. Digestion requires a lot of energy and going gluten-free is thought to help your body save the energy spent, by not exerting unnecessary energy, trying to digest things that it can’t digest. 

Your weight could also go up and down. Having cut out gluten products from your diet, you are more likely to comfort yourself through other foods. If you reach for healthy fruits and vegetables. then you stand to lose some weight. However, if you start reaching for indulgent chocolates or processed gluten-free snacks, then you stand to put on weight. You will also notice that you are getting hungrier more often, which could lead to either healthy or unhealthy eating habits. Hence, when it comes to going on a gluten-free diet unless you are careful with what you eat, you could actually gain weight. 

Once again, we must highlight that a gluten-free diet is intended for those who suffer from either celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Simply following the trend and going on a gluten-free diet may have more negative side effects for your body as opposed to actual benefits. When it comes to going gluten-free, doctors recommend that you get plenty of water and avoid strenuous activity during the initial detox stage. 

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Health Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet

When it comes to a gluten-free diet, there are various health benefits that would help those with gluten sensitivity. The fact that it helps those who suffer from celiac disease and gluten intolerance is conclusive. Though the idea of eating a gluten-free diet can become rather complicated with all the products that you have to stay away from, the health benefits brought about by a gluten-free diet is well worth the effort. 
 
 
Here are a few health benefits of following a gluten-free diet. 
 
 

1. Fights Depression

Depression and celiac disease go hand in hand. In fact, people with celiac disease are more likely to suffer from depression. 
 
 
When it comes to eating a gluten-free diet, research has established that a gluten-free diet could help you fight the symptoms of depression, bringing about favourable results. Maintaining a gluten-free diet helped improve the quality of life of people who suffer from celiac disease, thereby enabling them to fight the symptoms of depression. 
 
 
There have been insufficient studies conducted to prove whether a gluten-free diet works to fight depression for those who don’t suffer from gluten sensitivity. 
 
 

2. Less Headaches

There is a connection between the health of your gut and the health of your brain, something that has been established by way of studies conducted in the last few decades. 
 
 
People with gluten sensitivity, including gluten intolerance and celiac disease, are more prone to experiencing migraine headaches. This is heightened when they consume meals containing gluten. In fact, studies have noted the change to a gluten-free diet to have tremendous results in lowering the instances of headaches developed in these individuals. 
 
 
The studies conducted and the results attained are only linked to those who suffer from gluten sensitivity. It does not go to suggest the lowering of the frequency of migraines in individuals who do not suffer from gluten sensitivity. 
 
 

3. Reduces the Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

Individuals who suffer from celiac disease and gluten intolerance often have complications that arise from lactose sensitivity. In fact, people who suffer from gluten sensitivity are more prone to lactose intolerance. 
 
 
People who suffer from gluten sensitivity have damaged gut lining that reduces the amount of the enzyme lactase in their gut. Lactase is responsible for breaking down lactose in dairy products. With insufficient lactase produced in the gut, the lactose breakdown is hampered, which brings about lactose intolerance. 
 
 
A gluten-free diet however can reverse the damage caused to the gut, thereby reducing the symptoms and instances of lactose intolerance. A gluten-free diet helps promote gut health.
 
 

4. Reduces Bloating

If you experience excessive gas and bloating after eating foods that contain gluten, this may be due to the fact that you have gluten intolerance or celiac disease. 
 
 
Simply avoiding gluten helps alleviate these conditions. By simply removing gluten from your diet, you reduce the amount of bloating experienced thereby reducing the amount of digestive distress. If you suffer from bloating, then you will notice a difference almost immediately. 
 
 
Not only will your gut health be better, but your stomach will be visibly flatter after a meal. 
 
 

5. Healthy Weight Gain

Fatigue and diarrhoea are common traits that follow gluten intolerance and celiac disease. When left undiagnosed, excessive diarrhoea, bloating and gas could cause serious gut issues, which would have greater implications on your overall wellbeing. 
 
 
You could experience nutritional deficiencies which could lead to severe and uncontrolled weight loss. This is a part of the condition and disease. By simply switching to a gluten-free diet, you alleviate the gut conditions which brought about nutritional deficiencies, thereby enabling you to slowly gain healthy body weight. 
 
 
A gluten-free diet can help you regain the lost weight, thereby bringing you back to the healthier side of life. 
 
 

6. Better Energy Levels

When you suffer from gluten sensitivity, eating gluten can cause a condition known as chronic fatigue. Eating gluten for such people damages the gut, which prevents the absorption of certain nutrients, such as iron. 
 
 
Iron deficiency can lead to anaemia, which is a risk possessed by those who suffer from celiac disease and gluten intolerance. The deficiency could cause extreme levels of fatigue and make it difficult for you to carry out your daily activities. 
 
 
Changing to a gluten-free diet gives your gut the opportunity to completely heal, thereby enabling effective nutrient absorption. This will in turn bring about better energy levels, which will help you accomplish more with your time. The less you feel sick, the better you will be, and obvious to state, the more energy you will have.
 
 

7. Resolves Joint Pain

Though gluten sensitivity is mostly linked to the gut and gut health, the effects of these conditions are not simply bound to the gut. Celiac disease and gluten intolerance can increase the risk of inflammation. As a result of this, people who suffer from celiac disease often experience joint pains in the knees, back and wrists. 
 
 
You could sidestep the symptoms of joint pain, by simply switching to a gluten-free diet. Not only will your joint pain go away, but your bones will actually be healthier. 
 
 
However, when you are switching your diet to help resolve joint pain, in particular, you have to ensure not to eat gluten even in the slightest, because even small amounts of gluten in your diet could cause the symptoms to resurface.  
 
 

8. Better Bone Health

As mentioned prior, people who suffer from gluten sensitivity have damaged guts, which could lead to the ineffective absorption of nutrients. A common nutrient that is effectively absorbed by the body is calcium. 
 
 
We all know how important calcium is to bone health. Lack of calcium can lead to bone conditions such as osteoporosis.
 
 
Switching to a gluten-free diet could help you improve your bone density, by ensuring that your gut absorbs all the calcium, thereby drastically improving the health of your bones.
 
 

9.  Improved Skin 

Due to the malabsorption of nutrients in the gut, people who suffer from gluten sensitivity are more prone to skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. 

Following a gluten-free diet enables your body to better absorb essential nutrients in your gut. These essential nutrients are important in maintaining optimum skin health. When you switch to a gluten-free diet, you will notice the condition of your skin has improved. 

Not only will it help eliminate specific skin conditions, but it is also a great change for the overall health of your skin. 

10. Reduces Hair Loss

As mentioned repeatedly, gluten sensitivity can cause nutrient deficiencies in people who eat a diet containing gluten. 

Nutrient deficiencies in the diet have been linked to instances of greater hair loss. Switching to a gluten-free diet helps you to restore the health of your gut, which brings with it better nutrient absorption, thereby enabling you to restore the damage caused to your hair. 

Not only will it help reverse hair loss, but it will also improve the condition of your hair by improving density and bring with it better texture. 

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Side Effects of a Gluten-Free Diet

Having considered the various health benefits of a gluten-free diet, there are a few side effects of the gluten-free diet, which should be considered. 
 
 
Though stated as a health benefit, we must cite the change in weight as a side effect too. Due to the fact that gluten when eaten by those who suffer from gluten sensitivity causes gut issues and the malabsorption of nutrients, when you do make the change to a gluten-free diet, you may notice the gaining of weight. Further to the fact that you would be absorbing and storing more nutrients, gluten-free foods contain high amounts of vegetable fats, which could cause you to gain weight. Though the weight gain was considered as a health benefit as stated above, this could be an unwelcomed side effect for those who are already obese or are looking to lose weight. Hence we thought it was important to note this as a side effect too since it can very much be a disadvantage as much as it can be an advantage for some people. 
 
 
One of the more serious side effects of following a gluten-free diet is, your body could start to react to trace amounts of gluten. Due to the fact that your body is no longer used to the consumption of gluten, when you do consume even a trace amount of gluten, it could cause symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, gas, reflux and vomiting. Hence you should be careful about cross-contamination, though the severity of sensitivity can vary from person to person. 
 
 
As mentioned prior, changing to a gluten-free diet could cause fibre deficiency, which could lead to further instances of constipation. Hence, be sure to include fresh fruits and vegetables, alongside nuts and seeds into your diet to source the necessary fibre. Fibre is just one of the deficiencies you may experience. Due to the fact that your body was accustomed to getting its dose of B vitamins and iron from wheat flour products, you may begin to develop various nutrient deficiencies. In order to sidestep this, we do reiterate the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables. If you are uncertain with regards to your nutrient intake and where a shortfall may take place, do consider taking a nutrient supplement to ensure that your body gets everything it needs. 
 
 
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Health Benefits of Gluten

Since we have considered the various health benefits and side effects of a gluten-free diet, it is similarly important to understand the importance of gluten in your diet. This is primarily for those who don’t suffer from gluten sensitivity but are looking to jump on the gluten-free fad to stay with the trends. Hence before you make any drastic changes to your diet, first understand the importance of gluten for those who can consume gluten. 
 

1. Fewer Calories

Though many people may glide towards the fad of a gluten-free diet in hopes that it will help you lose weight, this is not entirely certain nor is it conclusive. In fact, one study conducted in Europe went to suggest that gluten-free food contained a significantly higher number of calories in comparison to their gluten-containing counterparts. 
 
 
Hence, when you consider a gluten-free diet, remember that the change could bring with it more calories, thereby causing you to gain more weight. Simply eating a gluten-based diet would mean that you have a better chance of consuming fewer calories as opposed to a gluten-free diet. 
 
 

2. Reduces the Risk of Developing Colorectal Cancer

Whole grains contain gluten, however, whole grains that contain gluten help reduce the risk of developing colorectal cancer as per a study conducted. As the study has identified, the risk of developing colorectal cancer was reduced by 17% for every 90-gram serving of whole grain consumed per day. 
 
 
High fibre diets help prevent diseases such as colorectal cancer, and whole grains are a great and reliable source of fibre.
 
 

3.  Reduces the Risk of Heart Disease

Gluten actually helps protect your heart. In fact, a study conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health identified that participants in the study who consumed higher amounts of gluten had a lower tendency of developing heart disease in comparison to those who consumed lower amounts of gluten. 
 
 
There was a 15% lower risk of developing coronary heart disease, as per the study conducted. This led to the conclusion that the promotion of gluten-free food for people who did not suffer from gluten sensitivity, for the purposes of coronary heart disease prevention should not be recommended. 
 
 

4. Reduced Risk of Diabetes

With major sources of gluten being pizza, muffins and bread, you would ask yourself the question of how gluten actually helps reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Though difficult to believe, a study conducted by the American Heart Association identified that people eating gluten were less likely to develop diabetes than those who consumed little or no gluten in their diets. 
 
 
In fact, as per the study, those who ate higher amounts of gluten were 13% less likely to develop diabetes in comparison to those who ate the least amount of gluten. 
 
 

5. Lower Risk of Exposure to Toxic Heavy Metals

When on a gluten-free diet, one of the more popular food items include rice and fish. Though rice and fish are considered healthy dishes, they may contain higher concentrations of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury, cadmium and lead. 
 
 
In fact, one study conducted on people who were following a gluten-free diet noted that blood samples contained higher levels of mercury, lead and cadmium. The levels of heavy metals were much higher in people who ate a gluten-free diet as opposed to those who did not avoid gluten. 
 
 
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Does a Gluten-Free Diet Help You Lose Weight?

Gluten-free products have topped $12 billion in sales and the reason for this might be the celebrity-endorsed gluten-free diet that is sure to help you lose weight and increase energy levels. In fact, people simply consider gluten-free products to be the healthier choice.
 
 
That being the case, does the gluten-free diet actually help you lose weight? When you consider a gluten-free diet, you are automatically giving up your favourite staple foods such as pasta, bread and cereal. This also includes various snacks which you would find yourself eating throughout the day. Though there are plenty of gluten-free options in the market, a gluten-free diet almost forces you to start eating healthy. You end up getting a higher amount of fresh fruits and vegetables and various other whole foods such as quinoa and brown rice. Simply including these minimally processed, high-fibre food into your diet could help you lose weight. 
 
 
That being the case, there is a lack of experimental studies on a gluten-free diet’s association with weight loss. However, people have noticed changes in weight, which could be due to healthier eating options as opposed to the gluten-free diet alone. Simply choosing gluten-free products will not help you to lose weight faster. Though gluten-free foods now have a recognised award of being the healthier option, people tend to eat more of the healthier food, which eventually causes weight gain rather than weight loss. 
 
 
When it comes to weight loss, there is, unfortunately, no miracle diet that will help you lose weight; this includes the gluten-free diet. What the gluten-free diet will undoubtedly force you to do is, eat healthier options of food and stop unhealthy snacking, which would thereby help you lose a few pounds. 
 
 
Though all the hype about the gluten-free diet may lead you to the inclination that it helps you lose weight, there is no concrete proof to suggest this. In fact, any weight loss that you may have noticed with some celebrities who endorse the diet come through plenty of exercise, careful eating and a healthy lifestyle in general in combination with the fact that their diet is devoid of wheat and gluten. Though the gluten-free diet can help you lose weight, it cannot be associated with simply not eating gluten, but rather with the fact that you are eating more fruits and vegetables.
 
 
Don’t get us wrong, the gluten-free diet could help you lose weight, however, this is due to simply you making healthier decisions. Overeating processed gluten-free food won’t help you lose weight, nor will it help you to eat more gluten-free calories than you are burning. Remember, weight loss is a journey the destination of which is not reached through one step alone, you have to combine various tangents such as exercise and healthy eating.
 
 
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How Long Does it Take to Detox from Gluten?

This varies from person to person and can take anywhere between 8 hours to a few weeks or months. When you consider the time it takes for your body to detox from gluten, you have to consider how long it takes for your body to actually heal from the damage caused by gluten. 
 
 
In fact, the effects of a gluten-free diet can be noticed immediately such as lowered bloating and gas, however for the detox to take effects, it could take months. When it comes to treating celiac disease and gluten intolerance, symptoms of the condition could improve after maintaining a gluten-free diet for about 2 weeks. When it comes to healing, the symptoms may disappear in about 3 months time and you could expect your gut health to improve in about 6 months time. It takes about 6 months for the villi in your small intestine to return to normal levels of health. 
 
 
When you are detoxing your body of gluten, you should make it a point to drink plenty of water, which will help in the detoxing process.
 
 
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What Happens If You Stop Eating Gluten and Start Eating Gluten Again?

If you don’t have gluten sensitivity and stopped eating gluten for a period of time and start to eat gluten again, then chances are you won’t experience anything whatsoever. However, this is very different to people who stopped eating gluten due to gluten sensitivity. There are various symptoms you would experience if you are gluten sensitive and you consume gluten again. 

 

Brain fog and migraines are the common symptoms of even a trace amount of gluten consumption. You could also experience nausea, diarrhoea, vomiting and gas. 

If you don’t suffer from gluten sensitivity and have not eaten gluten in a long time, but mistaken eat some gluten, then chances are you won’t experience any symptoms. However, you may feel nauseated or could experience diarrhoea as a result of the gluten intake. It takes your body some time to get used to the gluten in your diet again.  

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The Gluten-Free Diet

With everything said and done, it goes without saying that the gluten-free diet is intended for those who suffer from celiac disease or gluten intolerance. We hope that this article has provided you with some good insight into whether you should opt for a gluten-free diet or not. If you are suffering from gluten sensitivity, then it is best to consider a gluten-free diet; you have a lot to benefit from it. However, if you are looking to lose weight or are going with the trend of the gluten-free fad, then sorry to state the hype doesn’t live up to the reality.
 
 
Though people consider gluten-free products to be healthier, it is healthier for those who do have a gluten sensitivity. Otherwise, you may benefit from keeping gluten in your diet as per the health benefits of gluten as mentioned within this article. 
 
 
We hope reading this word to word has provided you with some good insight into the gluten-free diet. We worked to provide you with the most informative content to help you decide for yourself if the gluten-free diet is for you or not. Once again, it is highly recommended for those who suffer from gluten sensitivity; the health benefits of which will leave you feeling so much better. 
 
 
Happy Munching!
 
 

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