Gluten-Free Diet: A Beginners Guide

What is a Gluten Free Diet?

gluten free dietA gluten free diet is a known diet that prohibits the ingestion of the protein gluten found in the following grains:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Triticale (which is a cross between rye and wheat)

It is used as a treatment for celiac disease, people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), brain disorders and other autoimmune diseases.

Celiac disease is a chronic and autoimmune digestive disorder that targets the small intestines and causes inflammation in those with celiac when gluten is ingested both from food and drinks, and the only known treatment for it is engaging in a lifelong gluten free diet.

NCGS is a condition that produces similar symptoms to those who have celiac disease, however when someone with NCGS eats gluten, there is no damage to the small intestines.

Following the gluten free diet can be a bit daunting due to the food restrictions when it comes to processed foods, but you will still be able to enjoy a wide variety of delicious food.

What can I eat?

gluten free dietEven though you will be limiting yourself with foods that do not contain gluten, you will still be able to enjoy many delicious and healthy foods that are naturally gluten free.

Our goal is to give show you that this diet doesn’t have to be as daunting as it’s made out to be.

In fact, the most effective and healthy way to follow the gluten free diet is to plan ahead with a viable diet plan that consists of the following foods that are naturally gluten free:

  • Dairy.
  • Meat and poultry.
  • Vegetables.
  • Fruits.
  • Nuts and Legumes.
  • All forms of corn (corn flour, grits, etc..).
  • All forms of plain rice.
  • Flours made from nuts, beans, coconut and gluten free grains such as quinoa.
  • Quinoa, cassava, corn, soy, potato, tapioca, beans, sorghum, millet, buckwheat (kasha), arrowroot, amaranth, teff, flax, chia, yucca.

In some researches, reports shows that some grains that are naturally gluten free may contain gluten from cross-contact with other grains that contain gluten when harvested and processed. Which is why it is advised to always purchase grains that contain the gluten free label and contains less than 20 ppm (parts per million).

You probably asking, “What’s a ppm (parts per million) ?” It’s quite simple.

As of august, 5 of 2014 any food or product that is labeled gluten free must contain less than 20 ppm of gluten according to the US Food and Drug Association. [1]

The 20 parts per million is a level of gluten that is tolerable and accepted as a standard for any products that is labeled as gluten free. It is also the tolerable level of gluten that can be ingested by those with celiac disease.

If you’d like to understand it better, imagine having 1 million equal seeds of quinoa. Then, take 20 quinoa seeds and place it on the side and that is your 20 parts per million gluten.

The exact proportion of 20 ppm results in .002% of gluten per million parts of food.

If you need ideas and inspirations for your meals, there are plenty of delicious gluten free recipes for you to choose from.

Benefits of going gluten free

  • Celiac Disease: Dropping gluten from your diet will improve the conditions in just a few days and in time, end the symptoms caused by the disease, as long as you stay off gluten. It is the only curable, and long-term treatment.
  • Weight Loss: Depending on your meal plan and food choice, you are more likely to lose weight as the diet is very restrictive on what you are allowed to eat because it limits the sources of carbohydrates, which is a method used to aid with weight loss.
  • Autoimmune Diseases: It helps to control autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis and dermatitis herpetiformis which is a chronic disease of the skin, and thyroid targeted diseases such as Hashimoto’s and Greve’s. [2, 3, 4]
  • Cognitive impairment: A study has shown that the protein gluten impacts the brain functions, resulting in symptoms from brain damage (schizophrenia [5, 6], autism [7,8] and epilepsy [9, 10], dementia) to brain fog (11). Removing gluten will allow your brain to function properly in time, and patients with brain disorders who follow the diet sees massive symptom improvements. [12, 13]
  • Depression: Exposure to gluten can induce feelings of depression without effecting other indices. This finding explains why patients with NCGS feels better while undergoing the diet. [15]
  • Energy levels: There has been positive effects of higher energy intakes. And that’s because with gluten gone from your system, the vitamins and nutrients can be absorbed properly by the body. [16]
  • Type I diabetes: A study has found a link between Type 1 diabetes and gluten. Gluten consumption is a factor in the development of Type I diabetes. Further studies are being initiated, but the gluten free diet could be used to diagnose patients and stop progression of the disease, and prevent it. This is specially important for mother’s who breastfeed.[1] [17]

These are all reasons as to why even people without gluten intolerance should go gluten free, it isn’t just a diet for a curable disease, it is a decision to live a healthier life, both on a mental and physical state.

Keep in mind that most studies and research are directed towards people with celiac disease and gluten intolerance, but from our own life experience and research, we’ve seen that these problems affects every living person.

What happens to your body?

gluten free diet headacheNo matter what you eat, if it contains gluten the effects on your gut will be identical. When the food you’ve ingested reaches the intestines, an enzyme called tissue transglutaminase (tTG) that is produced in your intestinal wall, breaks down the gluten into glutenin and gliadin which are it’s protein building blocks.

As the glutenin and gliadin proteins make their way through the digestive system, the gastrointestinal tract’s immune system which is normally refereed to gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT) reviews the protein blocks and works to protect the body from invasion, or harmful substances.

For people without gluten issues, the proteins are absorbed normally, but in those with gluten sensitivity, the gastrointestinal tract identifies gliadin as a dangerous substance and instantly begins to produce antibodies to attack it. And with celiacs, they don’t just attack the gliadin, they also attack the tTG which is what broke them down in the first place.

The tTG enzyme has countless jobs, which include holding the microvilli together in our gut. One of the main functions of the microvilli which exists in the intestines is to absorb nutrients and increase surface area, all nutrients are collected and absorbed by the walls of the intestines, which is why the microvilli are so important. The more surface area, the more the body can absorb.

Why is this important?

Because when the antibodies that is produced by your body begins to defend itself against the gliadin and begins to attack your tTG, the microvilli are gradually destroyed which decreases the absorption of nutrients and the walls of your intestines begins to leak, manifesting itself in digestive symptoms which includes constipation, weight loss, bloating, diarrhea and malnutrition, aside from other serious symptoms such as mental fogginess.

When you go gluten free you will feel strong side effects for a few days, your body will not function properly and you will feel weak, but it is completely normal and your body will adjust to the changes.

Your body is so used to constantly fighting gluten and when it is removed , it’s as though it’s saying “Where is the gluten? I don’t know what to do without it.”

As your body becomes induced into the gluten free state, it will begin a constant fight against the offending food (the gluten) by creating more antibodies for three to four months after it’s removed from the diet.

Gluten is broken down into casomorphin peptides and gluteomorphin and it is formed during the digestion of gliadin from the gluten protein, and can be passed to the brain from gut leakage causing brain dysfunctions, which can mimic effects of morphine and heroin, which is why you will feel a major withdrawal after going off gluten.

In the first few days to two weeks, many people report:

  • Withdrawal
  • Weakness
  • Mental fogginess
  • Hallucinations and paranoia
  • Anger and depression

Not everybody is sensitive to casomorphin, or gluteomorphin but it does explain why many people get worse before greatly improving. Once the symptoms subside after your body adjusts, you will begin to feel clarity in many aspects of your life.

Dangers of a gluten free diet

There are some misconceptions which has caused an notorious outlook on the diet. And there are a few arguments against adopting it, specially if you’re tolerant to gluten, so let’s examine the evidence against them.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies

One major misconception is the nutrient deficiency matter.

Comparing wheat to gluten free grains, wheat has a higher percentage of nutrients and minerals, but most aren’t aware that wheat flour by law, must be fortified with iron, calcium, riboflavin, niacin, thiamine, vitamins A and D that was lost while processing, while flours used in gluten free products such as rice flour, and a few others are not fortified with nutrients, giving the main misconception towards gluten free products that it will leave you malnourished. [18]

In a recent study, they tried to address the problem to reveal some of the nutrients that are supposedly for those that undergo the diet. The basic idea is that whole wheat has most of the nutrients and minerals that we’re not getting by going off gluten. [19

Wheat can be replaced without a problem. It is not the only or the best way to get some of the nutrients needed by our bodies.

There are certain valid reasons for the warnings on the nutritional deficiencies but the greatest news is that with a balanced diet, you can eat healthy and fill all the nutrient gaps with a good meal plan.

How to get started

If you’re new to the website and unsure on where to begin, then we recommend reading our start here page.

Overall, eating on a gluten free diet will have a huge impact in your health – treating and preventing certain health disorders, body weight and even raising your energy and mood levels.

As far as dangers involving a gluten free diet, there are none, unless you have previous health conditions related to celiac, or gluten intolerance. Just be aware that the first few days to a week, you will feel sluggish but it’s completely normal as your body is adapting.

It’s very important to create a meal plan on a gluten free diet to make sure that you’re eating foods that contain no gluten, and have the appropriate vitamins and mineral needed by your body to function effectively.

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