There’s a lot of buzz around “gluten-free diets”, but not many people understand the benefits of going gluten-free. Some are required to go gluten-free. This may be due to an autoimmune disease, a compromised digestive system, or allergies and sensitivities. If you have not had to investigate gluten and the effects it has on the body for health reasons, it’s understandable that this might be an unfamiliar topic to you. I’m here to outline some of the benefits of going gluten-free and how this can impact your overall quality of life.
What is gluten and why is it bad?
Gluten is a family of proteins that are found in numerous grains such as wheat, barley, spelt, and rye. Gluten is what gives these grains a sticky and elastic consistency, which provides that chewy texture we are all so familiar with. Gluten also gives bread the ability to rise during the cooking process. The biggest issue with gluten nowadays, is how it is processed. Many farmers are using wheat with higher gluten varieties because of their natural insecticide qualities, which many of us cannot digest well. Moreover, it's all about yielding as much wheat as possible in North America, and we have not yet evolved to digest this high-yielding gluten filled wheat.
Most Common Foods High in Gluten:
- Baked goods (cakes, cookies, muffins, pastries)
- Processed foods
Symptoms of gluten intolerance vs celiac disease
Unless you suffer from celiac disease, it is not always obvious that you may be experiencing a sensitivity to gluten. If you have been diagnosed with celiac, it is quite common to experience severe digestive upset when consuming gluten. This is because gluten causes an immune response that attacks the small intestine, and causes damage. This can come with severe pain and changes in bowels. Many people that do not test positive for celiac, or gluten allergies/sensitivities, may still experience symptoms connected to gluten intake. If you are dealing with any of the symptoms below, it’s worth a shot to remove gluten from your diet for at least 4-6 weeks, or work with a practitioner that has experience in this area.
Some symptoms include:
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Stomach discomfort
- Brain fog
- Skin rashes
- Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
Why try Gluten-free?
Gluten can be inflammatory
There is a lot of research showing that gluten can activate inflammation in not just those suffering from celiac disease. Science shows that gluten can cause inflammation and worsen conditions like multiple sclerosis, asthma, anxiety, depression, and arthritis. This is due to the systemic inflammation gluten can cause (1). Alessio Fasano, MD, who directs the Center for Celiac Research at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston states “Unlike other proteins, we don’t digest gluten completely. In some people, the immune system sees gluten as the enemy and will unleash weapons to attack it, causing inflammation in the intestines as well as in other organs and tissues." (2). Many that go gluten-free notice their inflammation come down. They may notice relief in their joints, in their digestion, or in their blood work when inflammatory markers are looked at.
Gluten can cause digestive issues (ESPECIALLY if you’re sensitive to it)
Gluten is broken down into specific peptides that can be difficult to digest. Many individuals are sensitive to gluten and experience mild to severe digestive upset when they consume this protein. This is because of the way gluten impacts our gut microbiome, and the gut inflammation that is caused post consumption. Many notice symptoms such as bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, and constipation. If you are sensitive to gluten, removing it may be the answer to avoiding some of this digestive discomfort (3). Many also notice an improvement in symptoms if gluten is reduced, but not necessarily eliminated.
Thyroid and gluten intolerance
Let’s talk about gluten and the negative impact it has on the thyroid gland, specifically in those that suffer from an autoimmune thyroid condition. Studies show that a gluten-free diet can bring clinical benefits to women suffering with autoimmune thyroid disease (4). Simplified, the theory behind this indicates the thyroid tissue structure and the gluten structure to be similar in shape. The body can mistake the gluten structure for a thyroid molecule which can stimulate an attack on the thyroid (an immune flare). For this reason, a gluten-free diet is important for those that suffer from autoimmunity and the thyroid (5).
Gluten can be bad for the skin
It is quite common to see compromised skin from those suffering with a gluten sensitivity. Studies continue to show that many suffer with eczema, psoriasis, acne, hives, dry skin and gluten intolerant skin bumps. With those that suffer from celiac disease, it it quite common to get a moderate to severe blistering and an itchy skin rash. This skin condition known as a ‘gluten rash’ is called dermatitis herpetiformis. Many who react to gluten find relief from troublesome skin reactions once they try going completely gluten free (6).
Not sure where to start when it comes to choosing gluten-free products that are tasty? Here’s a quick gluten-free product guide!
Our current favourite Gluten-free Bread
Schar Gluten-Free Artisan White Bread is a great option for those looking for a tasty bread that does not contain wheat or gluten. This bread contains less fillers than most gluten free-breads on the market, and instead uses naturally gluten free grains like rice and quinoa. It also contains psyllium husk and flaxseed for extra fibre. A great bread choice!
Our current favourite Gluten-free Pasta
Rizopia Quinoa Brown Rice Penne is certified organic, gluten-free, non-gmo and vegan! I love the simplicity of the ingredients being only quinoa and brown rice, two grains that are naturally gluten-free. This pasta is easy to digest and a fabulous source of fiber. It is super tasty and completely fat and cholesterol free.
Bean pastas are a great gluten-free alternative to traditional wheat pasta. This Liviva Black Bean Fettucine provides 22 grams of protein, and 11 grams of fiber per serving! The only ingredients are black beans and water. Bean pasta is a great way to enjoy pasta while ditching the gluten.
Our current favourite Gluten-free Cookie
I could go on and on about Made Good Cookies. Mostly because they are SO delicious, but also because their ingredients are amazing. These cookies are organic, gluten-free, vegan, and free from all the top allergens! This makes them so versatile (and a great school-safe snack).
Another great allergen friendly cookie that contains zero gluten, and melt in your mouth! These soft baked cookies are made with all natural ingredients, therefore have no artificial sugars or sweeteners. These are sure to be a family favourite.
Our current favourite Gluten-free Crackers
This company has done it again with these delicious gluten-free crackers! They remind me of traditional soda crackers. They are gluten-free, wheat-free, lactose-free, and low calorie! I love that they are individually wrapped. They make for a quick grab-and-go snack.
Nut thins are a great gluten-free, wheat-free and dairy-free cracker option made using rice flour. Each serving is 130 calories, has 2-3 grams of protein, no cholesterol, and no saturated fat. They are also super tasty and have a variety of flavours! The Pecan Nut-Thins are also crazy delicious!
Check out our latest bounty oats recipe that is 100% gluten-free for your next delicious breakfast!
Written by Allison Sherkin, RHN, CHNC
Allison is the in-house nutritionist at House of Wellness. She is a registered holistic nutritionist with experience in weight loss, mental health, hormonal balance, and digestion. She is passionate about helping others elevate their health and truly discover their highest potential! Allison believes in products made with integrity and focuses on effective solutions to help her customers and clients.
1.Xue, W., Mao, J., Chen, Q., Ling, W., & Sun, Y. (2020, October 20).Mogroside IIIE Alleviates High Glucose-Induced Inflammation, Oxidative Stress and Apoptosis of Podocytes by the Activation of AMPK/SIRT1 Signaling Pathway. Diabetes, metabolic syndrome and obesity : targets and therapy. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7585782/.
2.Niland, B., & Cash, B. D. (2018, February). Health Benefits and Adverse Effects of a Gluten-Free Diet in Non-Celiac Disease Patients. Gastroenterology & hepatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5866307/.
3.digestion-of-gluten. Dr. Schär Institute. (2019, October 8). https://www.drschaer.com/us/institute/a/digestion-gluten.
4.B;, K. R. S. W. O. (n.d.).The Effect of Gluten-Free Diet on Thyroid Autoimmunity in Drug-Naïve Women with Hashimoto's Thyroiditis: A Pilot Study. Experimental and clinical endocrinology & diabetes : official journal, German Society of Endocrinology [and] German Diabetes Association. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30060266/.
5.Can a Gluten-Free Diet Treat Hashimoto's Thyroiditis?: Dietitians On Demand. Dietitians On Demand | Professional recruiting services for contract and permanent-hire positions. (n.d.). https://dietitiansondemand.com/does-a-gluten-free-diet-effectively-treat-hashimotos-thyroiditis/.
6.Tuomi, J. (2021, June 4). Gluten Intolerance Rash: What Is It & How To Treat It. RSS. https://www.imaware.health/blog/celiac-disease-skin-rash.