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The Benefits of Going Gluten-Free

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Guest blogger JJ Virgin: The media is still buzzing about Chelsea Clinton's wedding: who was (and wasn't) on the guestlist; the dress; the gift bags ... even the gluten-free cake, which was rumored to have cost $11,000.

woman eating
Chelsea reportedly has a gluten intolerance, which means her body has difficulty processing gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains. It's estimated that 3 million people have so-called "celiac disease" (an autoimmune disease wherein your body can't tolerate gluten), but a much higher number of people -- possibly 30 percent of the population -- are sensitive to gluten and may experience health issues because of it. 

The most common problems caused by gluten include gas and bloating, constipation and/or diarrhea, joint pain and mood disorders. Gluten can also impact thyroid function and cause the gastrointestinal tract to become more permeable or leaky, which can cause its own set of problems. 

Gluten is ubiquitous; it is lurking in many processed foods and grain-based products, including some you wouldn't expect (such as mustards and deli meat). Not eating gluten-containing foods can be a challenge at first, but here are some of the health benefits: 

  • Weight loss 
  • Better energy 
  • Better sleep 
  • Clearer complexion 
  • Better mood 
  • Reduced joint pain 
Of course, there are plenty of foods you can eat even when you give up gluten, including quinoa, fresh fruits and veggies, sweet potatoes, rice-based products, corn tortillas and steel-cut, gluten-free oatmeal. And with the growing awareness of this problem, more and more gluten-free options are being produced. However, I want to emphasize that a gluten-free cookie is STILL a cookie, so be sure to treat it as dessert! 

I have found that many of my clients experience dramatic health benefits when they completely eliminate gluten from their diets. My advice is to give it a try for a month, track your symptoms and see what going gluten-free can do for your health.

©2010 JJ Virgin & Associates, Inc. Celebrity nutrition and wellness expert JJ Virgin is a media personality, in-demand public speaker and bestselling author of "Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy, the 5-Step Plan to Sleek, Strong and Sculpted Arms." Get her biweekly LEANzine -- chock-full of tips to get you slim and sexy fast -- at http://www.jjvirgin.com.


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57 comments so far | Post a comment now
Jamie August 19, 2010, 1:17 PM

Get tested for Celiac before going gluten free. The test is only accurate if you are actively eating gluten. If you do have Celiac, it is better to have an “official” diagnosis. This is not just a fad diet, it is a huge health problem for many. A simple blood test can save you a lot of heartache down the road. Plus, who wants to eat gluten free if they don’t have to? It’s not a fun thing to do, trust me.

Lisa August 19, 2010, 3:17 PM

I agree with the previous poster - get tested, this is not a diet for the faint of heart. Also, as a celiac related to several other celiacs and friends with many more, I can say that you will RARELY lose weight on this diet. The author has it quite wrong on this one. In fact, everyone I know has GAINED weight on this diet because their bodies are finally able to absorb food and nutrients as it is meant to do.

Helen August 19, 2010, 6:13 PM

I have lost a lot of weight since I’ve been gluten free (for about a year)
Maybe 20 lbs total which is a lot
It just came off

I do have gluten intolerance, so that’s why I had to change what I ate. But if I didn’t I would never choose this for fun or diet, I could never give up all the yummy baked good out there. (I have a big sweet tooth)

Also not sure how many of you are aware, but gluten also causes infertility in women.

Helen August 19, 2010, 6:15 PM

Oh and also, tests for gluten can be very inaccurate many times, so sometimes the test will say no yet your body will say yes you have this. This is because some people have slight intolerance while others can’t eat gluten at all.

Katie August 19, 2010, 8:55 PM

I concur with the earlier posters. Going gluten-free is not a fad diet or a way to quickly lose some weight. It is a necessary way of life for people diagnosed with Celiac Disease. If someone thinks they really may have a sensitivity to gluten, they should get tested before going gluten-free. Otherwise, I don’t know that there are really any proven health benefits of going gluten-free for those who do not have Celiac Disease or are not diagnosed as gluten-sensitive. I recently read an article in which some doctors even believe there can be negative effects to someone going gluten-free without needing to.

As an earlier poster mentioned (as a doctor on the Today Show also recently pointed out), many people gain weight on a gluten-free diet because they are finally absorbing food properly.

Finally, a gluten-free diet is NOT easy by any means - it requires constant reading of labels, calling restaurants and reading menus in advance and quizzing waiters. It means you really can’t eat anything unless you know 100% what it was made from and how it was prepared. I do not recommend anyone pursue this unless they absolutely have to.

Sally Kennedy August 20, 2010, 4:07 AM

Just cutting back on the gluten has helped me! Start slowly and look carefully at the labels.

Maxine August 30, 2010, 8:17 PM

This is a great article with some great tips! Although going gf can have its benefits, unless you’re allergic or intolerant, doctors do not recommend a gf diet. Otherwise, if you are gf and looking for ways to spice up your diet, check out Tasty Bite. We’re a preservative-free, all natural, ready-made brand and almost all of our products are gluten free. Check out our website: www.tastybite.com for more information and recipes. Happy eating!

Maxine - Tasty Bite

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