Even if you're sick of hearing about gluten all. the. time., it'd be tough to ignore the findings of this recent study by Italian researchers. The gist: people without celiac disease that say they’re “gluten sensitive” may now have a certain inflammatory protein to blame.
It's called zonulin, and normally, it's what helps you fight off a bout of food poisoning, so it's technically a good thing. But, what the study authors think is that certain people release excess amounts of the stuff after consuming gluten—resulting in an onslaught of not-so-fun symptoms ("brain fog," fatigue, the list goes on... see more here).
More research is needed but NPR reports that a trial testing whether it’s possible to temporarily shut down zonulin production will soon be underway. That in turn, may lead to a medication to help both celiac disease sufferers and those who are gluten sensitive to manage their symptoms.
Until then, if you suffer any of those afformentioned signs, it wouldn’t hurt to go on a temporary gluten-free trial. “If you are having unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms or suspect intolerance to gluten you may consider a 2-6-week elimination trial,” says Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., a registered dietitian at the Mayo Clinic.
Even if you feel no different (therefore realizing you're in the clear on the gluten front), shunning the bread for a few weeks has some perks: It’s a good diet quality check since it forces you to look more closely at the foods you eat, ingredient labels, etc, says Zeratsky. Plus, it may encourage you to try healthy gluten-free grains that you might not have otherwise. (Here are just a few you should eat, gluten-sensitive or not.)
But once your trial ends—if you feel no real difference—add some healthy gluten-filled foods back in to your life. “A gluten-free diet is a restrictive diet and not easy to follow,” says Zeratsky, and if you are an athlete, you’ll need to rethink your carbo-loading routine. (However, gluten-sensitive athletes should know: It is possible to consume enough carbohydrates from fruits, starchy vegetables, and dairy to fuel your body through tough workouts, per Zeratsky.)
Want to test drive a gluten-free diet? Bear in mind these tips from Zeratsky:
1. Read labels: Gluten lurks in some surprising foods like salad dressing and ketchup.
2. Check out other grains that don’t have gluten: Millet, buckwheat, and amaranth are just a few to try.
3. Know that “gluten-free” does not mean “healthy.” There are many foods that are gluten-free that are highly processed and no healthier than any other highly-processed foods.
Disclaimer: Always talk to your doctor or an RD if you're unsure whether any diet change—even a temporary one—is right for you.
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