Is a Gluten-free Diet the Answer to Weight Loss?

With nearly a third of Americans adopting a gluten-free diet people are starting to wonder if this is the answer to weight loss.

Typically a gluten-free diet is primarily for people who have celiac disease. Some celebrities are turning to a gluten-free diet and 29% of Americans are doing the same. But is it the answer to weight loss and good health or could it be causing people to gain weight?

Basics About a Gluten-free Diet

Data just released by the NPD Group revealed almost a third of people in the USA are cutting down on gluten or going for a gluten-free diet. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Certain people and celebrities are on a gluten-free or low gluten diet for health reasons, such as Miley Cyrus. Today one of the HGTV Property Brothers, Jonathan Silver Scott, was searching for a restaurant in Vancouver that is similar to My Fit Food. According the My Fit Food website, 90% of their meals are gluten-free. But is gluten-free the answer for everyone?

In most instances, a gluten-free diet is recommended for people with celiac disease. This is a disease only about 1% of the population has. With celiac disease, the small intestine becomes inflamed when a person eats foods with gluten. Symptoms of the disease include joint pain, depression, diarrhea, migraines, lactose intolerance, fatigue, abdominal pain and iron-deficiency anemia. This chronic condition is treated with a gluten-free diet. Despite the fact more people are turning to a gluten-free diet, there is no labeling standard for products in the United States. Gluten can be lurking in products such as soups and sauces as well as breads, pastas, oats and other foods.

Celiac disease is not the same as gluten-intolerance or an allergy to wheat. Often these people also adopt a gluten-free diet as well as folks with irritable bowel syndrome. Considering the limited number of people with these conditions, more people are turning to a gluten-free diet than really need one. These people could be missing out on fiber and other important nutrients by going on a gluten-free diet. The upside of this current trend is raised awareness about gluten-free diets. More restaurants are serving foods for people who need or want to limit or eliminate their gluten intake.

A Gluten-Free Diet and Weight Loss

Weight loss is also not inevitable. In fact, many gluten-free products have a higher level of fat. Recently I adopted a gluten-free diet when my doctor suspected I had gluten-intolerance. My weight started to soar and I decided it was not the right diet for me. I was eliminating gluten from my diet, counting calories and gaining more weight. It was a very frustrating experience and I returned to the doctor to find out more. My doctor referred me to an obstetrician-gynecologist to conduct additional testing.

My problem turned out to be hormonal. As a result, my doctor recommended the Atkins Diet. I soon discovered Phase 1 of the Atkins Diet, also called induction, is a bit like a gluten-free diet. Basically, I am consuming protein-rich foods such as eggs, beef, chicken and fish. The carbohydrates in my diet are foods such as green leafy vegetables and mushrooms. I can also eat Atkins bars, which help limit my cravings for sugar and cakes. Phases 2, 3 and 4 start to slowly reintroduce foods that have carbohydrates. These foods include items with gluten.

My friend’s son has celiac disease and lost weight on a gluten-free diet. Clearly that was not the same situation as mine. I was hesitant to try the Atkins Diet after my failure on a gluten-free diet. After seeing Sharon Osbourne discuss it on “The Talk,” I decided to try it out. I have lost 15 pounds in about a month and feel much better. I learned a gluten-free diet is not the answer for everyone. It makes sense to discuss any type of diet plan with your doctor before changing anything. If a recommended diet does not work, it is important to return to your doctor to find a solution. I am glad that I did.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons Public Domain Sgt. Michael Connors