Is Eating Gluten Bad For You?

Have you seen rows of groceries with the label "gluten-free"? Ten years ago, the word gluten was not such a household word. Most people wouldn't recognize the word; much less know what it was. So, what is gluten?

Gluten is a protein that is typically found in grains, barley, rye and wheat. From the servings of bread we all love at our favorite restaurant to the dough on our favorite pizzas, gluten is found in many foods.

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Gluten free diets can be helpful to people who suffer from celiac disease.

Celiac disease is the body's inability to process gluten. Celiac disease can be so severe that it causes problems with infertility, gastrointestinal disturbances and other complications. You may be wondering why gluten is so disruptive in some people. In cases of people afflicted with celiac disease, their bodies recognize every gluten particle as a harmful invader. Then their bodies develop a plan of attack also known as an immune response. That response from the body's immune system ends up damaging the small intestine, which produces numerous gastrointestinal issues and nutritional deficiencies. At a rate of one out of every 133 persons affected, this disease is more common than previously thought in the medical community.

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So if going gluten free is actually out of necessity for some, how did the gluten-free diet gain favor among dieters not afflicted with celiac disease?

Because gluten is found in a lot of processed foods, being on a gluten-free diet means avoiding most processed foods. Processed foods often have a lot of empty calories, so by avoiding processed foods, weight loss is naturally going to occur. Some people choose to go gluten-free for this exact reason. However, gluten-free foods aren't fat-free or sugar-free. Often in the absence of gluten, food manufacturers will have to use more fat or sugar to bind foods together (gluten is key in binding food together). A serving size of pretzels containing gluten is 110 calories and 1 gm. of fat. The same serving of gluten free pretzels is 140 calories and 6 gm. of fat.

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Is a gluten free diet right for you?

If you truly have signs of celiac disease then it may be worth cutting out certain foods and visiting your doctor for a formal diagnosis. However, if you think that going gluten-free for the sake of weight loss will be easy, think again! Gluten, like soy, is in almost everything. Since gluten is used to thicken and flavor foods, you can find it in everything from soy sauce to salad dressing. In addition to limiting your food choices, a gluten-free diet may severely reduce your nutrient intake as well.

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The best thing to do in order to lose weight is to eat a healthy-balanced diet rich in protein, whole grains, healthy fats, fruits and vegetables. If you are concerned that you may have celiac disease, here are some signs that may help you and your doctor make a determination: anemia, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, chronic diarrhea and constipation, infertility, and abdominal pain and bloating.

If you notice those symptoms often, please contact your doctor for a physical. Otherwise, realize a gluten-free diet is not an easy way of losing weight but a lifestyle that requires tons of education and a lot of patience.

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