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Gluten-free lifestyle | Kate's Real Food

The Science Behind Gluten-Free: How Gluten-Free Diets Can Benefit Your Health

Written by Registered Dietitian, Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, MS, RDN

Gluten is not a food, it’s actually a protein found in foods such as bread, pasta, crackers and grains like barley, wheat and rye. It’s become increasingly common that people are unable to comfortably digest this protein, shifting them towards a gluten-free lifestyle. 

Some folks have to slightly minimize gluten in their diets while others have to completely remove gluten in order to tame symptoms, possibly stemming from a celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity diagnosis. People who have celiac disease, a chronic gastrointestinal immune disorder, have to follow a strict gluten-free lifestyle. This diagnosis can ultimately be determined with a blood test with a doctor. These folks with celiac disease have to find food options that do not contain gluten to minimize celiac disease symptoms such as abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, diarrhea, brain fog or even joint pain. Others who are not able to easily digest gluten may be diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity, which are all characterized by discomfort after eating gluten.

What's a Wheat Allergy?

A wheat allergy is completely different from celiac disease. If a person is allergic to wheat, either upon consumption or inhalation, they may develop hives or skin rash and both the respiratory and the gastrointestinal system can be affected. It’s best to get blood work followed by a Skin Prick Test from your doctor to best diagnose and subsequently manage a wheat allergy.

How About Gluten Sensitivity?

To date, there is a lack of scientific research on gluten sensitivity because it is a fairly new health concern. Although it happens to be more common than celiac disease, there is still a lot about gluten sensitivity we don’t know, such as its derivation, specific symptoms, risk factors and causes.

What are the Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet?

Going gluten-free when you have gluten-related disorders or celiac disease will be helpful for the body when it comes to properly absorbing macronutrients like protein and fat and micronutrients, such as vitamins and minerals. That’s because the gut won’t be in a flared up state and will be able to absorb these nutrients without the interference of inflammation. In these cases, there are many short term and long term health benefits of gluten-free eating if your body cannot properly metabolize gluten.   

However, it’s important not to jump ship entirely onto the gluten-free train, especially if you can tolerate gluten just fine. According to research, going gluten-free without a true intolerance may reduce the number of whole grains consumed which can subsequently increase cardiovascular disease risk.

Do I Have to be Really Careful When I Go Gluten-Free?

Because following a gluten-free diet long term is the only tenable treatment for celiac disease, those adhering to a gluten-free diet need to take special care to avoid gluten contamination and products that may contain gluten like soy sauce, canned soup and even broth. The slightest exposure to gluten can cause a negative reaction in the body, leading to gut issues. Thankfully, all of Kate’s Real Food products are gluten-free certificated using a third party's vigorous and safe testing standards. Each product is clearly labeled to indicate the safety in the absence of the allergen as well as the prevention of cross contamination of ingredients.

What Nutrient Deficiencies Do I Need to be On The Lookout For With Celiac Disease?

Those with celiac disease may have deficiencies in calcium, vitamin D and iron, especially if newly diagnosed. In fact, vitamin D and calcium deficiencies can be worsened if someone has lactose intolerance, which is very common in newly diagnosed celiac disease because of the damaged villi in the gut and reduction of the available digestible enzyme, known as lactase. Kate’s Real Food gluten-free products, especially the oatmeal cranberry and almond bar, can help support these specific nutrients because an entire bar contains 4% vitamin D, 12% iron and 4% calcium.

What Are Some Common Gluten-Containing Foods, and What Are Their Gluten-Free Alternatives?

Grain based foods, such as breads, bagels, pasta and other wheat containing grains like rye and barley all contain gluten. In fact, gluten can be found in products like soy sauce, dressings and even ketchup so it’s important to always read food labels. These days, there are luckily lots of gluten-free alternatives to wheat products that help support a gluten-free diet for optimal health such as gluten-free pasta, gluten-free pizza, gluten-free crackers, gluten-free breads as well as a wide variety of gluten-free flours to bake with like almond flour, cassava flour or buckwheat flour.

How can I ensure a balanced and nutritionally adequate diet while following a gluten-free diet?

Those that follow a gluten-free diet should ensure that they are eating a well balanced diet, mostly filled with fruits, vegetables, primarily plant-based proteins and healthy fats. It’s important to snack on foods that are made with real ingredients that support your gluten-free lifestyle, not hinder it. 

As with any type of dietary limitation, the key is to plan snacks ahead of time to ensure nutritional adequacy on a gluten-free diet.  Planning ahead can lessen your stress and support your mental health, all while successfully adhering to a gluten-free diet. That way, you don’t feel challenged to get yourself a balanced snack, with protein, healthy fats and carbohydrates. Pack a nutty trail mix ahead of time, sort out portable veggies like carrots and snap peas and a dip with hummus or simply throw in a Kate’s Real Food gluten-free snack bar into your bag. All of these choices are nutrient rich, gluten-free foods to choose from.

Why should I carry Kate's Real Food with me 24/7 if I'm gluten-free?

Managing a gluten-free lifestyle is not easy. In fact, transitioning to a gluten-free diet can be quite challenging. But thankfully, there are so many gluten-free snack options available, like Kate’s Real Food gluten-free snack bars to help support an on the go, balanced diet. 

Not only do all of Kate’s Real Food products contain certified gluten-free oats but their bars are chock full of plant-based, high quality ingredients like real honey, dark chocolate and nut butters. Their organic flavors range from decadent dark chocolate to citrusy mango and bright lemon, all while providing nutrients like heart healthy fats, plant-based proteins and energy boosting, low glycemic carbohydrates.

I need more education and information about gluten-free, who should advise me?

In navigating these new waters, it’s recommended to work with a doctor and a registered dietitian to help see improvement in their GI symptoms, manage gluten intolerance and ensure nutritional accuracy on a gluten-free diet. Plus, registered dietitians can also advise how to transition to a gluten-free diet, create balanced, gluten-free meal planning, gluten-free snacks, and go through the rigorous list of gluten-containing foods to avoid and foods to stock up on, like Kate’s Real Food gluten-free snack bars. No matter if you have celiac disease or a gluten-related disorder, it’s best to talk to a health professional.