Gluten,a protein in wheat,seems to be in the limelight. It is also found in grains such as barley,rye and oats. With increasing awareness about celiac disease and gluten-free diets,many more gluten-free food choices are visible on supermarket shelves,health food stores and pharmacies.
Not just those who have been diagnosed with celiac condition,but many seem to be adopting gluten-free foods as a lifestyle option. Lately,several celebrities like Novac Djokovik,Victoria Beckham,Elisabeth Hasselbeck,Gwyneth Paltrow,Rachel Weisz have been in the news on account of their modified dietary choice. Here are some common myths and truths around gluten-free diets.
Gluten-free diet leads to weight loss
The fact is that if you avoid wheat or gluten,your food options get limited. You may end up eating less than usual and,therefore,lose weight. However,if you replace wheat chapattis or breads with gluten-free alternatives,chances are you will gain weight due to a high percentage of refined starches in commercially available gluten-free alternatives. As a matter of fact,weight gain among diagnosed celiac individuals indicates recovery.
May increase stamina and energy
There is no direct correlation. However,if you replace wheat,breads and bakery products with healthier foods such as millets,including ragi,amaranth,oats,quinoa,brown rice,fruits and vegetables,you will certainly feel better. Taking only one cereal grain as a staple can also make you more sensitive to it. Consuming a variety,helps.
If uncomfortable after eating gluten,stop
As a matter of fact,in case you do feel uncomfortable,bloated or low in energy with wheat or gluten,do not remove it from your diet as these may camouflage symptoms of celiac disease. It is important that you continue to eat a normal diet that includes gluten containing foods such as breads,pasta and cereals,before and during the diagnosis process. If you have already removed gluten from your diet,you must re-introduce it for at least six weeks before any diagnostic tests are performed. If you stop eating wheat or gluten,the condition may be hidden and result in a negative test. You must get an investigation for the same under the guidance of a qualified physician.
If one feels better after stopping or avoiding wheat it indicates a wheat allergy
Wheat allergy or celiac disease are two different conditions. Celiac disease is only confirmed when both blood tests and biopsy are positive. In case,they are negative and you feel better without eating wheat or gluten,you are likely to be wheat intolerant and not celiac. Individuals with confirmed celiac disease are intolerant to gluten,a protein present in wheat and some other grains including barley,oats and rye.
Gluten-free fare is healthier than regular fare
This depends on what you substitute for gluten or wheat. Commercially available gluten-free foods can be rather refined,high on starch and low on nutrients. However,if you choose whole grains such as millets amaranth,quinoa and brown rice,vegetables,fruits,low fat dairy,nuts and seeds,you stand better nourished. Gluten-free food alternatives at home without margarines and hydrogenated fats can certainly save you from harmful TFAs (trans fatty acids).
Those diagnosed with celiac disease may eat small amounts of gluten on and off
A confirmed diagnosis requires a strict gluten-free diet for life,even if there are no symptoms upon ingesting gluten. There is no room for occasional gluten intake. However,accidental consumption and contamination are separate issues.
Symptoms of celiac disease
* Mouth ulcers
* Sudden or expected weight loss
* Hair loss
* Skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
* Short stature
* Recurrent miscarriage
* Joint / bone pains
Ishi Khosla is a former senior nutritionist at Escorts. She heads the Centre of Dietary Counselling and also runs a health food store. She feels that for complete well-being,one should integrate physical,mental and spiritual health. According to her: To be healthy should be the ultimate goal for all.