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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.

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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

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