Side Effects of the Gluten-Free Diet
Gluten-free diet helps all celiac patients, even those who did not have obvious symptoms shown up, in preventing themselves from life-threatening situations. But the avoidance of gluten does not ensure that your diet is nutritious and healthy enough. Celiac patients must remember the following issues when they shop or plan their meals.
· Weight gain
Many of the celiac patients before diagnosis are thin and sickly. The hallmark of celiac disease is that the villi that line the mucosa of small intestine is damaged. This means that celiacs cannot absorb all nutrients. After having adopted gluten-free diet for sometime, the inflammation of intestines heal and its ability to absorb nutrients is retained back. Though celiacs do not consume much calories than before while eating gluten, the probabilities for gaining weight is high. Many studies do support this fact that though celiacs were slim before diagnosis, after they adopt the gluten-free diet, they gain weight and hence they must keep a control on their calorie intake, a lack of which may lead to obesity.
· Vitamin deficiency
Patients who had been diagnosed with celiac disease recently and had adopted a gluten-free diet are more likely to get nutrient deficiency. This is because gluten-free products lack or have low quantities of vitamin B complex, vitamin D, calcium, zinc, iron, fiber and magnesium. There are few gluten-free products, which have these constituents. Swedish researchers have studied adult celiacs for a period of over 10 years, more than half the patients have vitamin deficiencies and as well have low levels of vitamin B6 or folate or both, high levels of homocysteine, which is a risk factor in the case of strokes, heart attacks and vascular disease. Prior to the study, all the patients were subject to a biopsy to confirm that their intestines were healthy so that the vitamin deficiency has not arisen due to the fact. The same was proved by some Italian researchers. Hence, it is the duty of the patients to check the vitamin status with their doctor during an annual check-up and take the necessary vitamins at the required levels.
· High cholesterol levels
In the celiac people before adopting the gluten-free diet, celiacs had been found to have the lowest cholesterol levels. This occurs normally since intestines did not absorb any of the cholesterol from the food items. But those days will be over, since after adopting a gluten-free diet, celiacs find an increase in their cholesterol levels suddenly. So the celiacs must also check their gluten-free foods with cholesterol and fat content. Generally, packaged gluten-free foods have higher fat content compared to the gluten counterparts. American Heart Association suggests celiacs to select foods that are high in fiber content since they enable the lowering of cholesterol. Such foods include beans, rice bran, peas, strawberries, citrus fruits, gluten-free oats and apple pulp.
· Diarrhea or constipation
While replacing bread and pasta with processed white rice, the fiber content reduces leading to constipation. In contrast, to balance this, if you include beans and fiber-rich grains to very large amounts, it also results in diarrhea and gassiness.
· Weight loss
Dietary changes sometimes lead to loss of weight owing to low calorie intake. But this is a rare condition.