Gluten free is an adjective that many food products are proudly boasting on their boxes. Gluten free pickles? Why is that necessary? Which begs the question, what kind of pickles do have gluten in them? Most importantly, what is this mysterious gluten anyway, and how does it affect you?
Gluten is a sticky protein that is found in wheat and other foods such as barley, rye, couscous and semolina . Many people only think of gluten in the context of Celiac’s disease— a condition found in people whose digestive systems exhibit an immune response to gluten. However, even if you don’t have Celiac’s disease there are many ways that gluten could be affecting you without your knowledge. It’s actually even possible that your mental health symptoms could be related to your diet. Do you struggle with anxiety? Are you constantly tired? Is your stomach always bloated and cramping? One in seven people experience negative, gluten related symptoms without having Celiac’s disease. This condition is called gluten sensitivity.
How would you know if gluten were affecting you? Many people simply try to remove gluten from their diets and see how their bodies feel. However, in order to really give your body a chance to recover from gluten, a gluten fast should be adopted for an extended period of time. If you have tried removing gluten from your life and are not seeing any results, another food or food group could be responsible for the way that you are feeling. In fact, about four percent of adults in the United States– 15 million of us– are afflicted by undiagnosed food allergies. If this sounds like you, one option to try is an elimination diet. Most elimination diets last between three to six weeks and aim to cut out all of the most common food allergens ( listed at the bottom of the article). Elimination diets are not meant to be lifestyle diets because, for many people, they are too extreme to maintain. In other words, they are intentionally adopted diets for a short period of time for the purpose of discovering what foods your body thrives on and what foods your body is ailed by. An example of a fairly popular elimination diet is the Whole30, called this because participants eat only whole foods for thirty days. However, elimination diets don’t always provide definitive answers. If you would like to know more about food allergies and how they may relate to your physical and mental health symptoms, consider asking your doctor about a food allergy test. Your results will show you the foods that you are most allergic to on a scale. From there, the journey to a healthier you is just a matter of avoiding them.