…Is it gluten-free? 

I hear that question being asked over and over these days.  And now noticing the food industry is being more direct with their gluten claims on their packaging labels, this article seemed timely.

…Is gluten a friend or a foe? AND why do we need to know?

First of all, get your head out of the sand. If you don’t know what gluten is and where it’s found, you aren’t alone. But,  it’s now time to understand gluten once and for all. Gluten is the common name for the proteins found in specific grains, and it is found in all forms of wheat. barley, rye, and oats.

Now think about those hot, steamy cinnamon rolls at the mall or your favorite coffee shop.  Or how about those pastas, cereals, and fresh, hot-right-out-of-the-oven cookies.  What comfort those nice foods give us…. right?  WRONG! In those moments, we consider them “food friends,” however, for an estimated 3 million or more Americans diagnosed with celiac disease, this type of “comfort” causes a severe illness.  Not to mention the other illnesses that can go along with eating these types of foods. The numbers are rising on those who have been diagnosed with this autoimmune disorder that involves a severe reaction to foods containing gluten. Growing awareness of the condition, combined with consumer demand, has brought an increasing number of gluten-free products to store shelves in recent years.

When a person with celiac disease eats foods containing gluten, the immune system attacks the small intestine. The resulting damage to the small intestine impairs the body’s ability to absorb some important nutrients. This condition can cause fatigue, weight loss, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation or even diarrhea.  Ugh…not the kind of energy we want moving through our bodies, nor the preferred way to drop a few pounds.

This new gluten awareness has also brought to light those who haven’t been diagnosed with a full-blown case but have become gluten sensitive.  Symptoms can be the same and result in IBS, irritable bowel syndrome.

Other conditions may also involve a gluten reaction, at least in some individuals. Autoimmune type of diseases, such as fibromyalgia, Type 1 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and rheumatoid arthritis, have also shown positive results when removing gluten from the diet.

For those who have been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease and a gluten-free sensitivity, it makes sense that gluten is a not a friend to the natural plumbing we were created with.  But others who are not affected by it are safe to eat it.  Pending your body can process gluten in a friendly manner.

The fact remains that by eliminating gluten from your diet, it’s not going to be the end all solution to help one lose weight.  Only taking in fewer calories than calorie expenditure is the long-term answer in losing weight.  Any extremes in calories, either high or low, will always be a foe in losing and maintaining a healthy weight.

Eating doesn’t have to be restrictive or always list of negatives when finding what works for you. If you don’t have a medical condition that requires you to avoid gluten, keeping gluten in your diet while improving the quality of foods you eat will make eating out and shopping for foods a lot easier. Some pros of gluten include being able to eat whole-grain breads and cereals that offer necessary fiber and nutrients such as B vitamins.

Moderation when consuming certain foods can take a lot of skill and discipline, especially foods that contain gluten. Foods that contain gluten are usually considered “comfort foods.” They tend to create the opposite, though. Primarily because gluten-filled foods are missing important vitamins and minerals as say beans, legumes, starchy vegetables, nuts and seeds. When you eat with best nutrients in mind, then your body will be more satisfied and your wallet will be more satisfied as well. Typically, gluten-free products tend to run up a grocery bill pretty quickly.

When we get down to the nitty-gritty of whether certain foods are friend or foe, we have to weigh the facts and benefits. Knowing what works, sticking with what we know, making adjustments along the way, and then practicing success always brings healthy and balanced benefits for long-term good health and an overall balanced life for our mind, body, and spirit.


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