GLUTEN FREE! Now I’ve got your attention, do you ‘do’ gluten free? Have you tried going gluten free before? Are you thinking about going gluten free? What are your reasons for going/trying/thinking about it? Have you been diagnosed with coeliac disease, did you think it would help you to lose weight, or did you just think it was healthier? If you were unsure, here’s the scoop on gluten and going gluten free.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is the protein found in cereal grains like wheat, barley and rye; with the highest amounts found in wheat which it is most commonly associated with. It’s role is to nourish the plant embryo during germination. In baking, gluten gives bread and processed foods elasticity, allowing it to stretch and rise; the reason why gluten free bread is often very dense.
Is Gluten Bad For You?
Gluten has a bad rep but the truth is, for the majority of people it is safe to consume. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune condition where the body reacts to the gluten proteins. This can damage the lining of the gut and lead to symptoms like nausea, diarrhoea, bloating, constipation, tiredness and in some cases unexpected weight loss amongst others. These symptoms can range from mild to severe. The treatment is a gluten free diet.
Gluten Free & Weight Loss
For people who’ve tried gluten free as a weight loss tactic, in those with coelic disease, removal of gluten can actually lead to weight gain. This is because the gut is allowed to heal and can better absorb nutrients and there aren’t the effects of diarrhoea. With weight loss, gluten is also found in all those products that are inherently bad for us; cakes, pastries, pizza. By removing gluten people will lose weight because they have removed a lot of the calorie dense food which were more likely the culprit.
In a study using self-reported non-coeliac gluten sensitivity patients (Biesiekierski et al, 2013), IBS symptoms were improved using a low FODMAP diet, with no effects seen in a high gluten diet (Read Kate’s previous article on FODMAPs here). When people remove gluten, it often adheres to a more FODMAP style diet, which is more likely to be giving the beneficial effects that are being seen.
Another point to consider is that by removing gluten, you could potentially be removing essential fibre. Fibre which is needed to keep the gut and bowels healthy. This in turn could result in further problems if you are already suffering.
Essentially, if you are a coeliac sufferer, don’t eat gluten. If you think you may have coeliac disease, get yourself tested to confirm – see a specialist about this. If you feel better, happier and have lost weight going gluten free, that is awesome. Continue what you are doing but the truth is it probably wasn’t the gluten.