Is Gluten Free Right for Me?

The number of people following a gluten free diet is climbing--heck, even Lady Gaga recently announced she's gone gluten free. What does it mean exactly--and what is so bad about gluten?

Gluten-free diets were originally designed for patients with
Celiac disease, a debilitating digestive disease that was believed to be very rare (We now know it affects at least 1% of the population). Gluten is very damaging to the intestines of someone with Celiac.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and other similar grains. Even organic wheat contains gluten. Gluten is not inherently damaging in moderation, but like sugar and processed foods, it tends to cause inflammation in the body, especially over time. And inflammation is at the root of most disease.

So why don't we all avoid gluten, just in case? Well, gluten is in just about every packaged food. It's even found in soy sauce! So it's not easy to avoid it. If you buy gluten free products, they tend to contain more fat, calories, and carbohydrates than wheat-based foods. Furthermore, they are much more expensive. And eating out becomes a challenge. Gluten can even be ingested when a gluten-free food is prepared on a cutting board that had gluten on it.

However, it may be worth it to avoid gluten, especially if you have digestive troubles or are sick. If gluten is a problem for you, you'll generally start feeling better pretty quickly. And as long as you aren't Celiac, you will not harm yourself permanently if you slip from the diet once in awhile.

The best bet is to choose foods naturally gluten free like potato, rice, and fresh produce and meats rather than rely on packaged gluten free products.

The increase in popularity of gluten free means more foods are available with better quality, better prices, and better taste. Hopefully gluten free is here to stay! Gluten free won't cause weight loss, but it may decrease fluid retention and help you overall move toward a healthier diet.

I've been following a gluten free diet off and (mostly!) on for years, so feel free to shoot any questions my way.

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