People now more than ever before are running away from gluten as if it’s the plague—but is it necessary?

There is plenty of research suggesting that gluten, the combination of proteins gliadin and glutenin found in cereal grains, causes issues with mental processing and physical movement.

Naturally, this begs the question of whether we should ditch wheat for good and search for an alternative to gluten-free diets.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are some people who need a gluten-free diet to function in their everyday life. Celiac disease is an immune system disorder in which your body can’t break down gluten. This disease leads to malabsorption of nutrients, followed by many painful symptoms. Symptoms include gas, diarrhea, bloating, constant fatigue, abdominal pain, and other pains that cause an inconvenience to daily routines.

Though it isn’t just those who suffer from celiac that have a sensitivity to gluten. People who claim to have gluten sensitivity describe their experiences with food containing gluten and wheat to cause bloating and gas.

For individuals who suffer from celiac disease, gluten triggers inflammation in the small intestines. Individuals who have this disease follow a gluten-free diet to avoid the pain that comes from ingesting this protein. For those with gluten sensitivity, their gluten-free diet is a preferred way of living rather than a forced way of survival.

Many student athletes depend on an adequate carbohydrate intake to have enough energy to perform on the field and in the classroom. A lot of energy is derived from grains, and when these foods aren’t in your system anymore, it doesn’t perform as well due to fatigue. It’s missing critical nutrients, such as vitamin B and forms of iron and fibre.

Evidence suggests that when professional athletes follow a gluten-free diet, they believe over time that the benefits outweigh the risks. Athletes think that a lot of carbohydrates before a game slow them down during the critical period to perform.

Healthy carbohydrate substitutes for people that follow the gluten-free diet are varieties of flaxseeds, quinoa, potato, nuts, tofu, and beans. These foods provide critical nutrients to the body while also keeping the body and mind quick and sharp.

The benefits of a gluten-free diet can be persuasive. The immune system rests and the body can function at a high level to repair muscles. Hypoglycemic effects on the body are minimized after exercise, and blood sugar levels are stabilized during exercise. This is essential for increasing muscle strength and stamina.

But the argument against gluten-free living, some would argue, is just as convincing.

Choosing between a gluten-free diet and a gluten-pro diet can be a tough decision if you don’t suffer from celiac, as there are pros and cons to each choice—especially if you’re an athlete looking for that athletic edge. But if the decision is up to me, I’m not giving up my pizza.

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