Gluten Free Diet Not Just a Fad
Gluten-free diets have always been vital for those with celiac disease, but have recently become popular for those who just want to lose weight
Diet fads are like fashion trends. Weight Watchers. The South Beach Diet. The Atkins Diet. Dietitians have deemed them all effective ways to improve health and lose weight. To add to the mix, a new diet alternative has made its way to the runway: the Gluten-free diet. However, for some, the Gluten-free diet is not just
First, to address a question many shoppers wonder as they pass grocery products bearing “gluten-free” assurances, what is gluten? Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, barley, and rye that gives foods their elasticity, according to Registered Dietitian and exercise physiologist Mindy Black.
Gluten-free diets are essential for individuals who have Celiac disease. Nutritionist Mindy Black explains that celiac disease is a digestive disease that inflames and damages the small intestine, interfering with the absorption of nutrients from food. This inflammation makes the villi that absorbs nutrients shrink, creating less of a chance for nutrient absorption. The inflammation stays in the digestive system for an average of three days. If Celiac disease goes untreated, serious side effects may occur, such as infertility, bone fractures, and various forms of leukemia.
Alternatively, many people do not have Celiac disease, but experience sensitivity to gluten and can benefit from a gluten-free diet, or a diet with minimal gluten. Among people who are sensitive to gluten, those who consume the protein become exposed to severe nutrient deficiencies. These deficiencies can present minimal symptoms like bloating, fatigue, headaches, abdominal pain, constipation, moodiness, or diarrhea, or more severe symptoms such as infertility, osteoporosis, or cancer.
Jennifer Gornto, who was diagnosed with Celiac Disease at the age of 33, was forced to abruptly change her diet and abandoned many of the foods she loved, like pizza, whole wheat pasta, french pantry bread, cakes, and beer. Jennifer remembers that her symptoms began about two years prior to her diagnosis:
My results confirmed that the villi in my small intestine were very damaged. That’s when my I became forced to wean myself off the foods I had always enjoyed. I had always been a healthy eater and was willing to try anything. I loved going out to dinner with friends and indulging in multi-course dinners, wine, and most of all–dessert. Overnight, my food life as I knew it was forever changed. Eating out became a past time, as I began to prepare a vast majority of my meals at home. Ordering gluten-free items at restaurants became a difficult chore and I had to learn how to become accumulated to going without all the comfort foods I had always enjoyed.
The end result, however, is a good one. Not only did I end up learning how to stay away from foods that would affect my digestive system, but I also took on a lifestyle change that improved my energy levels, my health, and my food intake awareness. For example, my quest to refrain from gluten includes a diet full of vegetables, rice, potatoes, lean meats, sea food, and other foods we are taught as children are good for us.
On my gluten-free diet, I now crave and love naturally occurring gluten free foods like olives, cheese, steak, milk, okra, rice noodles, potatoes, corn, sausage, tomatoes, avocados, black beans, pickles, vodka, wine, peanuts, broccoli, spinach, apples, pears, mushrooms, eggs, yogurt, chicken, snickers bars, diet coke, sprite, port, grapes, corn chex, and green beans. I also enjoy gluten-free alternatives like Udi’s Bread, Crunchmaster Crackers, So Delicious products, Baked Tostitos, and Corn Tortillas.
The availability of gluten-free products has increased, which demonstrates the increase in popularity of gluten-free products. For example, Native Sun carries a large selection of gluten-free alternatives, including homemade cookies and cakes. Whole Foods and Publix also carry a generous selection of gluten-free products, and Winn Dixie is beginning to follow in suite.
The end result is that the higher availability of gluten-free products make gluten-free lifestyles more convenient to tackle. However, the hardest part for many is giving up eating pizza, bread, and beer–three of America’s favorite pastimes.
Life and dieting are all about choices, and dieting is a type of lifestyle change. Whether you decide you’d rather give up meat or carbohydrates, or keep your normal diet and simply cut back on intake, there is no one-size fits all resolution to a healthy lifestyle. Nonetheless, the gluten-free alternative has spiked in popularity in the last year and is worth giving a try.
What contains gluten?
The challenge with gluten is that it can be hidden in processed foods as a preservative through terms such as “natural flavoring” or “artificial color.” It is found in salad dressings, ketchup,
soy sauce, and all of the following items:
Beer (most contain barley or wheat)
Bulgur (Bulgar Wheat/Nuts)
Common Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
Durum Wheat (Triticum durum)
Enriched Bleached Flour
Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour
Flour (normally this is wheat)
Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten
Malted Barley Flour
Sprouted Wheat or Barley
You get the point. Lots of things have gluten in them. In fact, it’s easier to list items that don’t contain gluten. Those who eat gluten-free can still eat any type of meat, fish, eggs, milk, cheese, corn, potatoes, rice, and all fruits and vegetables, so long
as the foods are in their
Mindy Black is a Registered Dietitian and exercise physiologist who specializes in sports nutrition, weight management, and medical nutrition therapy. She received her undergraduate degree from the University of Florida in Food Science and Human Nutrition and her Master’s in Exercise Physiology. Mindy is also a Board Certified specialist in Sports Dietetics through the American Dietetic Association–one of 195 in the country that has received this credential.
Jennifer Gornto is a Jacksonville Native who has Celiac Disease and has been gluten-free since December 2009. She works at Brooks Rehabilitation as the Manager of Strategic Marketing. She enjoys running, dining with friends, blogging, and participating in sports in the Jacksonville area. Jennifer started the blog GlutenFreeJacksonville.com following her diagnosis to help raise awareness about local restaurants who are doing gluten-free right. Feel free to contact Jennifer with any questions you may have about taking on a gluten-free diet at firstname.lastname@example.org.