A Realistic Overview of What It Means To Go Gluten-Free – And If You Should Try It
To say that gluten-free has been a trend of the past few years has been an understatement. What was once a little-known protein found in wheat has become an almost devil, banished to the “bad food” section along with sugar and fat.
When there is a trend, there is a counter-trend. Presidential candidate Ted Cruz proudly announced there would be no gluten-free meals in the army if he were elected. Bizarre, given that gluten – for those with Celiac – can literally lead to cancer. Yet somehow, gluten has become synonymous with weak – a millennial trend for jumping on bandwagons.
So is gluten a good guy, a bad guy or just not even worth considering?
There is no stock answer that fits all types. Sure, there are undoubtedly a few hipster-inclined people who think not eating gluten is making them healthier. There is some truth to that, too – but not because of gluten. When people go half-heartedly gluten-free, they tend to cut out things like cakes and bread. There are plenty of other reasons besides gluten to avoid these, so people naturally feel better for it.
Unfortunately, these types of people give the rest of us a bad name. Many restaurant servers vent their frustrations on NotAlwaysRight.com, with stories of a patron demanding gluten-free food without knowing what that means. So there’s no doubt for some, it is a trend, almost a lifestyle choice.
But for others, it’s a real matter of health concern. Celiac is the best known; an autoimmune disease where the digestive system attacks itself in the presence of gluten. There is also recognised gluten sensitivity and allergies, according to BeyondCeliac.org.
Then there are the other health conditions which are not explicitly linked to gluten but eliminating it seems to help. For example, the skin condition rosacea is well associated with gluten-free being beneficial and is advocated by Rosacea.org.
The idea that going gluten-free is the answer to a weight loss quest is ridiculous. If that’s your only motivation, and you seem to suffer no ill effects from consuming gluten, then try something else. But if you’ve another condition or suspect a sensitivity, then try eliminating it and see how you feel.
Gluten Is In Everything
Eliminating gluten sounds easy – no bread, right? This is the central fixation, but when you burrow down, you will find gluten in a wide variety of products. To accurately determine if reducing your intake makes you feel better, you’re going to need to commit.
A few of the stranger things you have to avoid include:
- Beauty products, such as lip balms.
- Medications – gluten is sometimes used as a binding agent. The same goes for vitamins and herbal remedies.
- New clothing. Starch is sometimes used by stores to keep clothes looking pristine, but it contains gluten. Get into the habit of washing clothes before you wear them for the first time.
You’re Going To Have To Cook
Yes, you can find gluten-free ready meals to make life easier. You can even eat out, so long as you are careful to avoid the chances of cross-contamination. However, combination of these two things is quickly going to become expensive.
You’re going to need a whole new set of ingredients. Common switches include coconut aminos in place of soy sauce and quinoa in place of pasta. Rice and nut flours replace traditional wheat ones. You have the option of buying store bought or sourcing your own ingredients and making your own. This gives you a level of control, so you can ensure there’s no contamination. You may use a Vitamix 5200 for smoothies and juicing, but as HealthyButSmart.com and other online portals make clear, you can turn it to other preparations to help with your creations.
You’re Going To Be A Nightmare To Eat Out With
As mentioned above, there are ways and means to dine out when avoiding gluten. But your choices are going to be limited, and it might begin to chafe with your friends and family.
No longer can you just walk into a restaurant and order something. You can’t even opt for a salad and be confident it’s gluten-free; if you’re serious, then you’re going to have to ask. Some restaurants put their suitability online, but they may not know what they’re doing. It becomes your responsibility to ascertain if they have true separation. It’s no good to eat a gluten-free roll from an oven also used to cook gluten-containing bread. You have to ask and do your research.
You may think that sounds a bit too much like hard work, for something that is meant to be pleasurable. Especially if you don’t have Celiac, it can be tempting to cut corners and take the risk. But this begs the question: why are you doing this at all? If you’re willing to risk small amounts of gluten, then you’re never going to know how you feel without it. See it as a poison, and a potent one at that – a single molecule is too much.
So What Do You Get In Exchange?
You might now be wondering if going gluten-free is going to be worth it. There is no stock answer here, either. You might have an underlying health concern and find your health improves without gluten, as thousands of people do. Or you might have gone through a lot of hassle, expensive and time loss with no obvious reward.
You can try gluten testing, but it’s an inexact science. While Celiac has a definitive medical screening system, plenty of people with gluten issues will pass it. Testing can only be done for an allergy – which is rare – rather than a sensitivity that damages other health conditions.
If you do have a problem, then removing gluten could solve it. You could find a new lease of life and energy, less pain in your joints, better sleep, clearer skin. It all depends on how much the issues you want to fix damage your life. If they are bad enough for you to seriously consider taking the steps of cutting gluten out, then it’s worth going for it. You never know, it might just be the cure you never knew you needed.