Why gluten-free diets aren’t just for people with celiac disease

Visiting a restaurant or grocery store without seeing gluten-free products everywhere is almost impossible. They’re popular for those with wheat allergies, but you don’t need a celiac diagnosis to switch eating habits. Read about the pros and cons of gluten-free diets for people who don’t have celiac disease to decide if it’s right for you.

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein from numerous wheat sources, including breads, pasta, baked goods and cereals. Although some people benefit from having gluten in their diet, others develop a genetic condition called celiac disease. It means their body is allergic to gluten, so they must avoid gluten ingredients in foods and beverages.

Benefits of gluten-free diets for non-celiac individuals

You might enjoy these health benefits from reducing your gluten intake. Consider if they’d make your daily life more enjoyable before changing your grocery list.

1. You’ll Reduce Your Inflammation

When you eat something with gluten, the protein reaches your gut and breaks down during the digestive process. The broken-down structure of gluten proteins can trigger inflammation on a small level or to the point of an allergic reaction.

Cellular inflammation can still affect your body even if you don’t have celiac symptoms like digestional upset or rashes after eating gluten. It could aggravate your nervous system and joints, increasing the severity of existing anxiety or arthritis.

If you’re one of the 40 million Americans with gluten sensitivity, you may notice decreased joint pain and anxiety when reducing or eliminating gluten. It’s one of the benefits of gluten-free diets for non-celiacs that can improve your quality of life.

2. You’ll Control Your Blood Sugar Better

Sometimes people assume gluten affects their blood sugar, but that’s false. It doesn’t spike your blood sugar because it has a low glycemic index (GI) effect when digested. Instead, gluten is present in foods high in carbs and sugars like doughnuts, desserts and other treats.

Reducing your gluten intake could stabilize your blood sugar because you’ll swap those sugary foods with healthier alternatives. It depends on what you replace those foods with regularly.

Keep in mind that some gluten-free foods still contain sugar. Coffee is naturally gluten-free, but many iced coffees contain sweeteners to bring customers back for more. Check the nutrition label to ensure your gluten-free foods and beverages align with your sugar intake goals.

3. You’ll Eat More Nutrients

Eliminating or reducing unhealthy foods means you can fill your plate with options that have more vitamins and nutrients. If you swap a gluten-dense food like white rice for quinoa, you’ll gain a starch source with a complete nutritional profile compared to the raw carbs in rice.

You might also have more room for fruits and veggies in your diet if you’re eating healthier foods. Snacking on strawberries in place of crackers would boost your immune system with more vitamin C, which you might not otherwise get from traditional crackers.

Negative Side Effects of Gluten-Free Diets for Non-Celiacs

There are a few negative side effects of gluten-free diets that you should consider if you don’t have celiac disease. Talk with your doctor if you have questions or concerns about altering your diet.

1. You’ll Lose Enriched Nutrients

Companies often fortify pastas, breads and cereals with nutrients to sell a healthier product. Gluten-free diets don’t include those foods, so your diet may initially include fewer nutrients. Pay attention to the vitamins and minerals in your standard foods to accurately replace them with gluten-free alternatives if you try a different diet.

2. You’ll Potentially Gain More Weight

Some people assume gluten-free foods have fewer calories because it’s supposedly healthier, but that isn’t always true. Some foods and beverages will contain more fat, sugar and salt to compensate for their flavor or texture changes. It’s one of the negative side effects of gluten-free diets that people don’t expect, so keep it in mind as you explore dietary options.

Even if you’re burning calories by walking or running every week, a gluten-free diet could make your diet work against your weight loss progress. Maintaining your weight loss might be more important than reducing your gluten intake. A quick call with your doctor will help you decide which is more crucial for your health.

3. You’ll Alter Your Gut’s Microbiome

When digesting gluten, your gut ferments fiber from whole wheat to feed your microbiome. Without it, you could deal with irregular bowel movements, gas or bloating due to your gut’s inability to break down food effectively. Taking a daily probiotic and eating fermented foods could help you avoid this challenge, but it’s something to watch for as you buy more gluten-free groceries.

Enjoy the Benefits of Gluten-Free Diets

There are numerous benefits of gluten-free diets for non-celiacs, but there can also be some unforeseen drawbacks. Weigh the pros and cons before talking with your doctor. Together, you can figure out what’s best for your health and which dietary options will support your journey to your health goals.