Traditionally, the gluten free diet was consumed by people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. But, in recent times many health conscious people are switching to consuming gluten free meals in order to lose weight. Read on to know what are the benefits and risks of going gluten free.

Gluten is the naturally occurring protein in wheat, barley, rye, and products derived from these grains. A gluten free diet excludes these grains and includes an alternative gluten free food source to meet the nutritional requirements.

Gluten is the only completely indigestible protein found in foods and its molecule can pass through the intestinal lining causing intestinal inflammation in people with celiac disease. In people with celiac disease, the gluten irritates the small intestinal lining and activates the immune system to attack the finger like projections called villi that gets damaged or destroyed over time. This reduces the nutrient absorbing capacity of the digestive tract and results in malnutrition in people with celiac disease.

Consuming gluten free diet is also beneficial in other conditions such as IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (allergy to gluten or other ingredients in food besides gluten).

There are also some controversial studies that have found a relationship between the gluten free diet and autism. Despite the nonconclusive findings, many parents report benefits of consuming gluten free diet in behavioral improvement, better social skills and learning in children with autism.

Sadly, many people are switching to gluten free diet just because it is a popular diet, which people believe is lower in fat and calories. Just because it is perceived to be healthy does not mean that it necessarily be the case. In fact, regular consumption of gluten free diet leads to an unbalanced food intake which is certainly not healthy and just because they are prepared “minus” a nutrient does not make any food product healthy.

Processed gluten free foods are just as unhealthy as the food products prepared with gluten in them. Many processed gluten free foods are prepared with potato or rice starch and are deficient in vital nutrients such as zinc, folate, iron, calcium, phosphorus, B vitamins, and fiber.

It is instead recommended that people should include naturally occurring gluten free foods such as beans, eggs, meat, fish and poultry, fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, and healthier starches and grains rather than just obsessing over wheat.

A person who is recommended gluten free diet because of health constraints must be watchful of the cross contamination and must avoid all food and drink preparations that contain wheat (durum and graham flour, farina, kamut, spelt, and semolina), rye, barley, and triticale.