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going gluten freeA lot of finger pointing occurs when it comes to making an excuse for weight gain. Gluten often gets a bad rep. for causing weight gain along with bloating and stomach issues. So, what does this mean for you? Is going gluten-free an absolute must? Should you be eliminating gluten from your diet?  Before banning bread and all other gluten-containing products, read on to see if you need to hop on the gluten-free bandwagon. Just because everyone else is doing it, should you be going gluten-free too?

Going gluten-free has been all the rage for quite a few years now. In fact, going gluten-free is all over Hollywood. Think Chelsea Clinton and Elisabeth Hasselback.

Following a gluten-free diet is often the result of a severe wheat allergy that if left untreated can lead to diarrhea, bloating, fatigue and malnourishment. Even worse, this allergy can lead to infertility and osteoporosis. Does any of this sound like fun to you? Didn’t think so.

Gluten-free diets are not always followed for medical reasons though. Many proponents of the gluten-free diet claim that ditching wheat can quickly melt away those unwanted pounds, improve your sports performance and even improve your mental clarity.

The gluten-free industry has exploded. This industry has increased by 27 percent since 2009 and surpassed $6 billion in sales during 2011. Gluten-free diets are extremely popular. Some experts are even calling them the new low-carb diet in terms of popularity.

But who really needs to be going gluten-free? Experts indicate that unless you are one of the one percent of Americans who have Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack itself when gluten is percent or part of the approximate five percent who are gluten-intolerant, going gluten-free will not work to boost your energy levels or help you lose weight. It is important to remember that many gluten-free products are high in fats and sugars.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is part of a protein that is found in three different grains. These grains include barley, rye and wheat. Gluten helps to make foods elastic and easier to chew — think bread or dough. In a majority of individuals, these foods pose absolutely no problem to consume. However, those with sensitivities to gluten can experience damage to the small intestines as the result of consuming gluten. The part of the small intestines that become damaged are known as the villi. Villi are small, finger-like projections that line they intestines. If these villi are destroyed as the result of Celiac disease, it is more difficult for the guy to hang on to vital nutrients.

Problem Products:

For those suffering from Celiac Disease or a gluten sensitivity, there are many foods that can be difficult to eat. This can make planning a healthy, well-balanced diet difficult. Aside from bread, gluten can also be found in beer, wine, energy bars, soy sauce, malt vinegar, couscous and even communion wafers. Even if a product does not contain gluten it can be contaminated during processing — think oats.


If you have a gluten sensitivity, you’ll know it. Shortly after consuming wheat, barley or rye, you will start experiencing a variety of less-than-pleasant GI symptoms. These symptoms can include bloating, gas, constipation, or diarrhea. You may also be irritable, depressed, or experience a rash, anemia, joint pain, weight loss or mouth sores.

Now What?

If you experience these symptoms, an internist or gastroenterologist can help make a diagnosis through blood work and an intestinal biopsy. A dietitian can then help you work out a meal plan to avoid gluten-containing products.

Food For Thought:

Many individuals make the mistake of eliminating gluten from your diet to lose weight or enhance sports performance. However, this isn’t likely to work. The only reason you may think it is working is because you are eating better quality foods. For instance, quinoa opposed to white rice.

Unless you truly do suffer from a gluten allergy or Celiac disease, eliminating gluten from your diet will not increase your energy levels or reduce the occasional GI complaints you may have.

By eliminating gluten from your diet, it is important to remember that you are also risking inadequate intake of B vitamins, iron and fiber. All of these are very important for metabolism and cellular functioning.

Before unnecessarily eliminating gluten from your diet, think about gluten-free products. Read a few labels. Many gluten-free products are high in fats, trans fats and sugar– this can actually cause you to gain weight.

Morale of the story? If you are looking to lose weight and do not have a gluten-sensitivity, going gluten-free is not the answer. A combination of diet and exercise is the tried and true method of losing weight. If you have questions about diet and exercise, consult your healthcare professional.

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