Cutting out gluten, dairy and sugar – are there benefits?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It can be found in lots of foods we eat including bread, pasta, cereal, crackers, beer, and many salad dressings, soups, and soy sauces. Gluten-free eaters learn to love alternative grains like amaranth, buckwheat, quinoa, and rice, but only those with a wheat allergy or, more seriously, ­celiac disease, must strictly comply. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, it sets off an immune reaction that damages the lining of the small intestine, causing diarrhea, gas, bloating, and other symptoms like irritability, muscle cramps, skin rashes, anemia. Chat to your doctor before eliminating gluten from your diet. Those with celiac or pronounced gluten sensitivity will see the most improvement. Since gluten sensitivity can trigger an inflammatory response that leads to acne, rosacea, or eczema, omitting it from your diet could help clear up your skin. But if you don’t have a true gluten sensitivity, you’re not likely to notice any changes in your mood, skin, or gut.

The recent championing of dairy-free diets is driven by more than lactose intolerance. Concerns about animal welfare and even a desire to save money influence people’s decisions to give up dairy (skipping your daily latte seems like an easy way to cut back on spending, for example).  If you have lactose intolerance, you’re naturally going to feel a whole lot better when you cut out lactose out. You’ll notice a decrease in bloating and gas, heartburn, and headaches — and your skin might clear up too. However, calcium and vitamin D are crucial for maintaining bone health as you age. It’s not guaranteed that milk alternatives like almond and coconut will contain levels of these nutrients on par with their dairy counterparts, so keep reading labels and get informed about how to make up for any nutritional shortfalls elsewhere.  

Sugar is pro-inflammatory. Eliminating sugar from your diet is a little like getting pollen out of your air supply. It’s everywhere: in ketchup, barbecue sauce, granola, cereal, flavoured yoghurt, sports drinks, instant oatmeal, energy bars, and more. But if you limit obvious sources — for example, soda, lollies, and baked goods — along with most processed foods, you can go a long way toward reducing the large amounts consumed on average per year. Some scientists actually go so far as to call added sugar “poison,” an idea that has gained widespread popularity among health experts and physicians in recent years. Cutting out sugar can stabilise your mood because sugar causes glucose — and energy — to spike, then plummet. Eliminating the stuff can also reduce stress on your body and skin. But, not all sugar is created equal – the naturally occurring sugar in whole fruits are a healthy source of essential nutrients including vitamin C, potassium, and folate. Choosing to go sugar-free is likely to help boost your mood and increase energy, and if you can’t bear to take it that far, merely cutting back can be good medicine.

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