The popularity of gluten-free products has carried them beyond the shelves of health food stores and into the large superstore chains. The necessity of a gluten-free diet for those who suffer from celiac disease is well-known, but there are benefits that may be enjoyed by more than just those who suffer with this autoimmune disease. Some of today’s common health complaints–including unexplained weight gain, mental and emotional issues, and irritable bowel syndrome–could possibly be reversed, or dramatically improved, through a gluten-free diet alone.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein combination found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. What makes a gluten-free diet so complex is that it is contained not only in these grains, but in a variety of processed food products as well. Presently, gluten requires no labeling and is found hidden in many commonly used items, such as soy sauce, non-dairy creamer, and baking powder. It is even found in many personal care products, such as vitamins, cosmetics, and toothpaste.
Why Gluten-Free in the Absence of Celiac Disease?
The effects of dietary gluten are still being researched and seem to go beyond a diagnosis of celiac disease. In fact, a negative result of an antibody test does not guarantee that the person does not have celiac or some other type of gluten sensitivity.
A person who is suffering from the inability to lose weight, bouts of depression, or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may discover that a gluten-free diet will ease or eliminate her symptoms. An elimination of gluten from the diet could possibly be the most effective and inexpensive way to treat a number of health issues for many people.
Gluten and Weight Gain
Gluten may cause weight gain in certain people by mimicking the hormone insulin. Gluten binds to insulin receptors in the fat cells then sends a repeating message to produce more fat. Gluten also binds to the cholecystokinin hormones (CCK), which work together with leptin to suppress the appetite and bring on a feeling of fullness. This mechanism may be disrupted by the interference of gluten.
Gluten and Psychological Issues
Food sensitivities, like those most commonly found in gluten and dairy, have the tendency to induce cerebral allergies. A person who suffers from cerebral allergies will not have the itching, sneezing, or other familiar symptoms of an allergy, but instead may be stricken with psychological issues. The gut-brain connection is an association that many may find difficult to perceive; however, changes in hormone levels and brain chemistry may result in depression, hyperactivity disorders, schizophrenia, and a number of other brain-related issues.
Gluten and Irritable Bowel Syndrome
IBS is a common symptom of a variety of food sensitivities, and gluten is often the main offender. The Archives of Internal Medicine has found that celiac disease is four times more likely to be diagnosed in those who suffer with IBS. In many situations, gluten may also be responsible for other gastrointestinal conditions including inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).
The spectrum of disorders relating to gluten intolerance extends far beyond celiac disease alone. The adoption of a gluten-free diet has been shown to promote life-altering effects to many who suffer from illnesses ranging from depression to bowel disorders. Further research is necessary to determine the entire spectrum of disorders that could be the result of this severe food allergen.