A growing number of people have tried out a diet free of the protein found in commonly eaten grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Spurred by even more endorsements from celebs like Gwyneth Paltrow and Oprah, many people believe that adopting a gluten-free diet can help them have more energy, lose weight, have clearer skin, and feel healthier overall. Gluten-free products have cropped up on supermarket shelves around the country, exponentially more than the prevalence of gluten sensitivities (which spells good news for those who used to search high and low for suitable foods!). But is it for everyone?
A recent Time survey found that the restricted diet's popularity is due to the fact that most people are gluten-free for the wrong reasons. While only about eight to 12 percent of people buy gluten-free goods because they have a gluten intolerance — including the one in 133 who have celiac disease — a recent poll found that almost 50 percent of people asked thought that "gluten-free" meant healthier, and 30 percent bought gluten-free foods in order to manage their weight. And while it's true that giving up things like pizza, pasta, and bread does mean low-carb, buying products labeled gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean you'll be sticking to your Dukan diet — the carbs in, say, gluten-free cookies and bagels are still there.
But a gluten-free diet may still be beneficial no matter what your allergies — read on to see why.
A recent study, however, showed that going gluten-free, even when you don't have celiac disease, may be beneficial. The study looked at over 3,000 individuals and found that those with a gluten sensitivity who didn't know about it had fewer gastrointestinal issues and general improvement of heath when they were placed on a gluten-free diet.
And then there's the effect you get from just believing a gluten-free diet is helpful. Tennis pro Novak Djokovic has gone from loser to winner (as in, beating-Nadal-style winning) with what his trainer says is the result of a shift to a strict gluten-free diet, which has helped him lose weight and overcome mental blocks to vastly improve his game. And although the tennis star is allergic to gluten, his trainer says that other people may benefit from gluten-free diets, even if it's only due to a placebo effect, and some experts agree. "If you believe in a cause of your disorder, it becomes the cause," says David Levitsky, a professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University. "We see this in many different studies. If you believe it, you change your behavior in the direction of being cured."
It's true that it's important to realize that gluten-free doesn't equal low-carb or healthier. You won't necessarily lose weight from eating a gluten-free diet, and you'll just be restricting your diet for no reason. However, if you think you may have a gluten sensitivity, eliminating it from your diet may help you feel better (just make sure you stick to whole, unprocessed foods and fresh fruits and vegetables) — whether or not it's all in your head.
Why do you go gluten-free?