Wondering about the benefits of gluten-free foods? And whether you should make a fairly big change to your diet? Gluten-free options are becoming more and more mainstream in restaurants and supermarkets, which is great news for people with coeliac disease and for those diagnosed with another form of gluten intolerance. But can going gluten-free benefit the rest of us?
There are lots of different claims around the wellness community which state that giving up gluten reduces bloating, improves mood and even helps fight acne. But is there any real evidence to back up these claims and prove that it's not just anecdotal? We're not doctors, but we take a closer look...
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Should you go gluten-free?
In a word, maybe. To be more precise, even if you don't have any diagnosed gluten intolerance, you may find that reducing your gluten intake (without necessarily going completely gluten-free) may help you with a whole range of health concerns.
The jury is still out on why exactly this may be, but the most likely explanation actually hasn't got much to do with gluten itself and it's more to do with the fact that high gluten intake typically goes hand-in-hand with a diet high in processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats.
Think of it this way: if excess weight, bloating, and fatigue are your concerns, then it's likely that your gluten intake comes in the form of highly processed white bread high in sugar. People who go gluten-free tend to replace whole meals consisting of processed foods with healthier options high in vegetables and fibre, and that's what contributes to weight loss and improves wellbeing.
There is some evidence, however, that wheat is an unusual food that our bodies may not have quite evolved to process, despite humans consuming wheat for millennia. Gluten contains proteins that the human digestive tract cannot digest fully, lacking the enzymes to do so. Moreover, recent studies have found that gluten has such a complex biological structure that it's very difficult to pinpoint which compound may be contributing to a sensitivity in an individual person.
If you have ongoing digestive issues, especially IBS, you may find it beneficial to cut out gluten at least for some time and see if there is an improvement. If you don't want to cut out bread completely, try eating less of it and switching to sourdough. It's not gluten free, but the way it's made at least partially breaks down the gluten in the flour, making it low in gluten content. Many people report that switching to sourdough bread helps with digestive issues.
Finally, will going gluten-free help you get rid of acne? There is no reliable scientific link between the two; however, if your acne is due to an autoimmune health condition or is related to digestive problems (a telltale sign is if you get breakouts on your forehead), then you should again consider significantly reducing your gluten intake.