10 Good Things about Living Gluten-Free
If you’re going gluten-free because you have some form of gluten sensitivity, coeliac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis, you know the key to not feeling lousy is going gluten-free. For you, the benefits are obvious. The benefits apply equally well if your diagnosis has come as a complete surprise – if you’ve had no obvious symptoms and haven’t even been aware that gluten is causing you a problem.
The solution is simple: no more gluten
You, unlike many people, have the key to better health: a gluten-free diet. Whatever your journey to this point has been, you now know that gluten is impairing your health and will go on doing so until you stop eating it. It’s not good news to find that you have a disease or that something as simple as an everyday food has been damaging your body. The upside: no drugs, no surgery, no hospitalisation, no special equipment, no radical change to your life, no fear that the treatment won’t work – no big deal. You just need to stop eating gluten.
You’ll start feeling better right away without gluten
Whatever intolerance to gluten you’re suffering from, the minute you go gluten-free, your body starts healing. Before you know it, you’re on the road to recovery and feeling great. After a couple of months of living gluten-free, you may notice that other little ailments improve along with the more obvious problems that took you to the doctor in the first place.
For example, you might have been diagnosed after having troublesome digestive symptoms, but after a few weeks on the gluten-free diet, not only have these symptoms gone away, but also you find that you stop feeling lethargic and start feeling full of energy, or that those headaches you used to get regularly have now gone away for good.
Your diet can be super healthy
You can just cut out gluten and replace it with something else, or you can reassess your diet as a whole and take the opportunity to make some other improvements as well. A fabulous array of healthy, naturally gluten-free foods awaits you, along with gluten-free indulgences for when you want a treat or just fancy a beer.
And by living gluten-free, you’ll probably find out a lot more about the fascinating science of nutrition along the way.
You’re in control of your gluten-free diet
When you live gluten-free, you take the reins of your own treatment and stay in control. What you eat is for you to determine; you have a big choice of gluten-free foods open to you and lots of valuable information on the labels to help you choose. Unlike a lot of processes for treating illnesses, the gluten-free diet isn’t detrimental to other aspects of your life. It has no side-effects and it doesn’t make you dependent on drugs, machines or on other people to administer the treatment. You can very easily manage the treatment yourself and get on happily with your life.
You may be less likely to develop associated autoimmune diseases
Many autoimmune diseases go hand in hand, meaning that if you develop one, your risk of developing another one is higher compared to that of the population as a whole. The relationship between coeliac disease and other autoimmune diseases is controversial. The research isn’t clear cut and so far it’s unclear which disease causes which. But some studies show that the sooner you cut gluten right out of your diet, the lower your risk of developing other autoimmune conditions in future.
You can restore your nutrient status to optimal levels
Many people with coeliac disease and other gluten-related disorders can be seriously lacking in some nutrients. This deficit may occur because their condition has affected their ability to absorb nutrients or because their diet is woefully restricted; they may have excluded a lot of foods that they suspected made them ill.
Either way, when you’re following the right restriction diet – in your case, the gluten-free diet – your gut begins to heal straight away, and in turn your ability to absorb nutrients gets a boost. You can also eat a more varied and complete diet, because you now know the culprit, so you can start to reintroduce all those other healthy gluten-free foods you were previously avoiding.
You can avoid gluten-associated complications
People suffering from coeliac disease who are undiagnosed or who have been diagnosed but still don’t follow a strict gluten-free diet are prone to develop complications such as osteoporosis, bowel cancer and fertility problems. They put themselves at risk of these serious conditions for no good reason, or perhaps because they can’t believe that something so simple could work so effectively. Yet a strict gluten-free diet reduces your risk of bowel cancer down to the level of the risk in the general population, after just three to five years.
Osteoporosis is a common problem in Britain and the number one cause of fractured bones in minor accidents and falls. If you’ve been diagnosed with coeliac disease and only started living gluten-free late in life, you have a higher risk of osteoporosis than other people do, because you have probably not been absorbing very much calcium from your food for a long time. But it’s never too late to start building stronger bones. Going gluten-free means that you’re more likely to avoid osteoporosis and so reduce this risk.
The risk of infertility and adverse events during pregnancy increases in women with undiagnosed coeliac disease or who don’t stay strictly off the gluten, but again the risk reduces when you follow a gluten-free diet.
Your weight can be easier to manage
When you go gluten-free the nutritious way, you eat a varied diet with good-quality protein, plenty of fruit and vegetables, calcium-rich dairy products and low-glycaemic-load foods. Eating these types of foods helps stabilise the ‘I’m hungry’ and ‘I’m full’ hormones so that you don’t always feel hungry, and also causes your body to use the stored fat (read ‘love handles’ or ‘saddlebags’) as energy.
Your blood-sugar levels may stabilise
If you’re following the gluten-free diet in a nutritious way, you’re essentially eating low-glycaemic-index foods that help stabilise your blood-sugar levels. Many wheat-based products are high-glycaemic and quickly turn to sugar in your bloodstream, which causes your insulin levels to rise and then drop quickly. Energy levels and even moods can follow this yo-yo pattern.
Getting a rush of energy only to crash and burn quickly is no fun. A naturally gluten-free diet helps stabilise your blood-sugar levels and gives you sustained energy throughout the day. If you have diabetes, you can benefit greatly from this approach when you’re trying to control your blood sugar.
No one needs gluten
A good thing about living gluten-free is that all you’re giving up is something that’s not essential and which has no particularly outstanding nutritional attributes. Gluten is a protein, or rather a group of proteins, together representing a handful among countless different proteins in food that your amazing metabolism makes for itself all the time.
In common with all plant proteins, gluten doesn’t even have a full complement of all the essential amino acids on board (that is, the ones that you must eat in order to stay alive, because you’re unable to make them). That means it’s of lower biological value than the animal-derived proteins in food. What’s more, numerous other foods can supply all the amino acids that are in gluten.
So in living gluten-free, all you’ll be missing out on is a group of molecules that mankind doesn’t need, has never needed and never will. It might have its uses for bakers, but biologically gluten certainly isn’t something that you’re going to miss.