Going Gluten-Free: Is It Right for You?

March 2, 2011  |  

Gluten-free diets are all the rage right now. Legions of celebs are gluten-free devotees including, Victoria Beckham, Gwyneth Paltrow and that Old Spice hottie, Isaiah Mustafa. Gluten-free menus are popping up at restaurants everywhere and sales of gluten-free groceries are through the roof. So what exactly is a gluten-free diet? Well, put simply, it means eliminating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, from your diet. So, no traditionally-made bread, pasta, baked goods or even oatmeal. Sound mad hard? It’s no joke.

So…uh.. why would any sane person ever want to do this? Well, a small percentage of Americans have a serious condition called Celiacs Disease which is a severe allergy to gluten that can cause an immune reaction. Then there are folks who are gluten-sensitive, which can cause excessive fatigue, depression, weight gain and digestive symptoms. An estimated seven to eight percent  of Americans have some sort of gluten-sensitivity. However, about 25 percent of Americans are on a gluten-free diet. Why? It simply makes them feel better. I’ll tell you about my experience.

A few years back, I was feeling sluggish and had stomach pain that just wouldn’t go away . I visited a nutritionist who suggested that I eliminate dairy and gluten from my diet. I looked at her like she was crazy. I’m not that into bread, but I have a bad sweet and I love oatmeal. I tested negative for Celiacs disease, but many people who are gluten-sensitive test negative.  I was desperate to feel better, so I decided to try this whole gluten-free madness. Within a few weeks, I had more energy and I lost 5 pounds. I also no longer suffered the abdominal pain that I had been enduring. While I haven’t been completely faithful to the diet, I try to eliminate gluten when I can. Curious about going gluten-free? Here are the steps to follow.

Visit Your Doctor or Nutritionist

Eliminating gluten is a serious commitment and you should be under the guidance of a doctor or nutritionist. If you are having the symptoms of gluten-sensitivity, you should be tested for Celiacs. Since many other conditions, have similar symptoms to gluten-sensitiviy, you should talk to your doctor about other potential medical issues.

Make a Meal Plan

Do some online research or pick up a gluten-free cookbook. There are many delicious foods that are gluten-free. My fav is risotto. Figure out your meals in advance and make a list.

Find Gluten-Free Friendly Establishments

Whole Foods has a great selection of gluten-free breads, crackers, cereals and other delights. Your local health food store should also have a host of gluten-free foods. Also, find out about local gluten-free restaurants and bakeries where you can dine.

Evaluate Your Progress

A gluten-free diet is not easy to maintain.If you aren’t feeling better, it may not be worth the effort. Also, if you go gluten-free for weight-loss, it may not be effective. Food that are modified to take out gluten such as gluten-free breads and baked goods, are often higher in sugar and calories. Have a clear sense of you hope to get from the diet and make sure that you’re satisfied with the progress.

Have you ever tried a gluten-free diet? What was your experience?

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