South Beach, Atkins, macrobiotic, raw, vegan, and now gluten-free. All of these are diet trends that have risen to fame in the last 15 years. Promising to help us drop the pounds and feel more fabulous than ever with little to no effort, we often find years later that there may be a downside to these trends. Atkins left many Americans with soaring cholesterol. Vegan diets left Americans protein, calcium, and iron deprived. Now the removal of wheat, barley, and rye seen in gluten-free diets may be taking more away from us than just our pasta.
Let’s start with the benefits. As a recent Daily Beast article promotes, the celebrity approved removal of gluten from your diet can lead to a decrease in sinus problems, tiredness, and acne, not to mention weight loss. These benefits are not a revelation however. For decades doctors have been promoting this diet to their patients suffering from the autoimmune disorder, celiac disease.
Celiac disease is a condition where peoples’ bodies cannot properly process gluten, specifically when it comes into contact with the small intestine. While people who do not suffer from celiac disease may also see some physical improvements once going on a gluten free diet, there may also be negatives due to improper nutrition.
It turns out that gluten-free eating removes a good deal of prebiotic fibers from your diet. These prebiotic fibers promote the absorption of calcium, strong healthy bones, and lower intestinal cancer factors, to name just a few. As the Jackson Siegelbaum Gastroenterology website explains “Prebiotics [...] are the necessary plant fibers that contain both oligofructose and inulin. These two fibers are the main nourishment for the good bacteria that reside in the gut. [...] Wheat and wheat products provide over 80% of the prebiotics that North Americans ingest.”
People suffering from Celiac Disease who need to remove gluten from their diets are usually aided by dietitians who inform them of how they will need to adjust their diets to continue to get proper nutrition. As a person removes such large portions of prebiotic fibers from their diet they must either take a supplement or replace the wheat that they would be eating with other high prebiotic fiber foods such as raw chicory root, raw Jerusalem artichokes, and raw dandelion greens.
It is not that gluten-free eating is an unhealthy diet. Quite to the contrary, gluten-free living provides many people relief from pain and physical problems every year. The greater problem is the immediate desire to try diet trends without all the information necessary to enter into a new lifestyle choice. Gluten-free diets can be a wonderful healthy way to lose weight and possibly take care of some other physical problems such as acne or tiredness. At the same time however, the help of a doctor or dietitian is always the best way to enter into any new eating regimen.