A gluten-free diet is an eating plan which excludes foods containing gluten. Gluten is a protein contained in specific foods and even many processed foods. This kind of diet is mandatory for people affected from Celiac disease and may be a lifelong treatment.
The Celiac disease has become one of the most common food-related chronic diseases, where the lining of the small intestine is damaged due to the immune system reaction to gluten; over time this damage reduces the absorption of nutrients from food (even important vitamins and minerals) and causes life threatening health issues such as anaemia, reduced bones density, excessive weight loss and reduced growth rate for children and adolescents; also, we have many symptoms that negatively affect the quality of life like low energy, abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, bloating, headache or rash. In the non-celiac gluten sensitivity the immune system reacts to gluten causing the same symptoms even if the intestinal tissues are not damaged.
A gluten-free diet is also popular among people who aren’t affected from celiac disease, because many scientific studies proved benefits such as weight loss, higher energy level and a general health improvement. The foods containing gluten are wheat, barley, rye, triticale, oat and their flours; also, many processed foods can contain gluten due to cross-contamination, so it’s very important that they are labelled as “gluten free”.
Nevertheless, there is a long list of foods that celiac people can eat and many gluten free alternatives produced to replace popular foods like bread, pasta, pizza, pancakes and biscuits. Unfortunately, the gluten free alternatives are higher in terms of sugars and saturated fats, therefore it’s very important to choose appropriate gluten-free foods or balanced daily diet plans to avoid to consume an excessive quantity of sugars and saturated fats as compared to gluten based diets.
However, if on the one hand the gluten-free diet is mandatory for people affected from coeliac disease, on the other hand it should be included in a healthy nutritional plan and be followed for short periods throughout the year; the reason is that a gluten-free diet, reducing the level of general inflammation, even reduces the likelihood of the most important diseases (obesity, cardio vascular diseases and type 2 diabetes) which affect a high percentage of population worldwide. Future studies will try to show further benefits of a gluten-free diet.