We are pumped to share one of our favorite stories from Health here on POPSUGAR Fitness.
By Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD
After experiencing some wacky symptoms, I was recently tested for celiac disease, and while the report came back negative, I've noticed that I do feel better when I avoid gluten. Many of my clients are in the same boat, but others seek me out after going gluten free and feeling worse, or even gaining weight, which seems to be increasingly common. The truth is, navigating the gluten-free landscape can be pretty darn tricky. Here are five common missteps I see, and how to resolve them.
Not 'getting' gluten
One client recently said to me, "I'm not really sure what gluten is, but I know it's bad, right?" I think a lot of people are a little in the dark about the issue at large, and it is complicated, but in a nutshell, here's what you need to know: gluten is a type of protein naturally found in wheat (including spelt, kamut, farro, and bulgur) and other grains, like barley and rye.
In people who have celiac disease, consuming even small amounts of gluten triggers unwelcome symptoms, including belly pain and bloating. This happens because gluten causes the immune system to damage or destroy villi, the tiny, fingerlike structures that line the small intestine like a microscopic plush carpet. Healthy villi absorb nutrients through the intestinal wall into the bloodstream, so when they become damaged, chronic malnutrition occurs, which is typically accompanied by weight loss and exhaustion. Other symptoms may include bone or joint pain, depression, and skin problems.
In people with this diagnosis, the only way to reverse the damage, and the accompanying symptoms, is to completely avoid gluten. People like me, who test negative for celiac disease, may be experiencing a condition called gluten intolerance, or gluten sensitivity, which means that while not celiac, consuming gluten causes bothersome side effects, which can include flu-like feelings, bloating, and other gastrointestinal problems, mental fogginess, and fatigue. Unfortunately, there is no real test for gluten sensitivity at this time, and the symptoms may be related to other issues, including stress (who doesn't have that?!), which makes it a not-so-black-and-white issue.
Will a Gluten-Free Diet Improve Your Health?
Confusing 'gluten free' with 'wheat free' or refined grains
As I noted above, gluten isn't only found in wheat. I've heard numerous people say they eat gluten free, but all they've really done is replace foods like white bread with hearty whole grain versions, which may include spelt (in the wheat family), and rye (which, while not wheat, also contains gluten).
If you don't have celiac disease or gluten intolerance, these swaps may make you feel great, and lead to weight loss, because trading refined grains for whole grains ups your intake of fiber, boosts satiety, so you feel fuller longer, and better regulates blood sugar and insulin levels. These are all good things, but, in this case, totally unrelated to gluten.
15 Gluten-Free Recipes
Keep reading for more mistakes made when going gluten-free.