I have had a few people talk to me recently about the benefits of going on a gluten free diet. So I decided to actually do some research on the topic.
1) It has been linked to helping people with other kinds of health problems. For instance, a gluten free diet has been shown to help people with thyroid disorders. I actually fall into this category. Almost two years ago I was diagnosed with extreme hyperthyroid or Grave's Disease. They actually treated me as if I had thyroid cancer, so I had the radiation treatment that completely destroyed my thyroid. Since then they have been playing with my doses of synthetic hormones. After about a year of coming back with irregular results, I was put on a gluten free diet. I was told that Grave's Disease (or Hashimoto's, which is extreme hypothyroid) are considered auto-immune disorders. So many people develop gluten allergies when they have an auto-immune disorder. Sure enough, since I have gone gluten free my hormone levels have also completely balanced out and I have now been on the same dose of synthetic hormones for the last nine months.
Studies have also shown that gluten free diets have helped people with heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels. It also improves energy levels and overall digestive health. Most of this can be easily explained. By going on a gluten free diet you're eliminating many food items with high sugar content. You're also eliminating processed foods and fried food. You're also eating many more fruits and vegetables because they are the only food items that are naturally gluten free.
2) It can help people lose weight. This is not a proven fact. If anything I would say, it is still what you as an individual make of it. You still need to possess the same discipline you would with any other diet and decide to make good choices. For instance, as you are examining labels for gluten and wheat content, you can also make yourself aware of the calorie content. You then can choose to eat that item or not. As I also said above, if you are choosing to increase your fruit and vegetable intake a decrease in weight would be a natural by-product.
However, if you're substituting processed foods with gluten free products like gluten free cookies and pretzels etc, you actually might be gaining weight. Many of the gluten free packaged products in the grocery store actually have higher caloric contents to provide the same flavor and texture as non gluten free products. Hey, we complained about the stuff tasting like cardboard before, there had to be some way for them to better that taste. So to say that a gluten free diet can make you lose weight is only verifiable by how you choose to follow a gluten free diet.
So to sum up here, is a gluten free diet for everyone? The answer is not necessarily. If you think that by just going gluten free you'll lose weight, you'll be disappointed. If you choose to go gluten free and also make other decisions in life to better your health- aka increasing your fruit and vegetable intake, drinking more water, exercising more (all the things we all know we should be doing anyway) you will definitely see an improvement in your overall health.
However, do not treat it as the new fad or trend diet. Although going gluten free is not going to harm you, it is a commitment you need to make and one that does change your dietary life. Once you eliminate gluten you heighten your sensitivity permanently. Before I went gluten free I could at least tolerate gluten in small doses, that is definitely no longer the case. If I have even the smallest bit of cross contamination now, I have a strong reaction. My best recommendation to anyone that asks is speak to a health care professional first. If you have other health problems that could be bettered by a gluten free diet, try it and see if you see results. But if you have no reason for going gluten free other than that you think it sounds like it's a healthy, better way to live, I'd caution you to really do your research first and carefully think about it if is a long term commitment you're willing to make. Those are my thoughts on the topic. Anyone else want to weigh in? I'd love to hear what other people think on this topic.