There have never been more options available for those who have struck gluten from their diet—cauliflower gnocchi, cauli-pizza crust, a seemingly endless variety of alt-pastas, gluten-free bread that doesn’t taste like sawdust… the list goes on.
But while deciding to stop eating gluten—a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye (think of it as the glue that holds everything together)—has become trendy in recent years, it’s not necessarily the healthiest choice everyone. “Approximately three million Americans have celiac disease, a serious autoimmune condition that is triggered by gluten,” says Kimberly Snyder, New York Times bestselling author, nutrition expert, and founder of Solluna.
Outside of those with celiac, some people may have what’s known as a non-celiac gluten sensitivity—Tracy Lockwood-Beckerman, RD, puts the number at about 6 percent of the population, as many as 20 million people. These people have tested negative for celiac, but still experience digestive distress when they eat gluten.
If you don’t fall into one of the two aforementioned camps, you might be wondering: Well, what happens to your body when you stop eating gluten? Are there benefits to be reaped even if you don’t have a sensitivity? Below, Snyder and Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition, share what you need to know before ditching gluten for good.
So, what are the potential benefits of going gluten-free?
If you have a sensitivity, you’ll see an improvement in your digestive health (and more)
“If you are going gluten free because you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, then you may feel relief of symptoms including GI issues, weight loss, improved nutrient absorption, a decrease in aches and pains and headaches, and increased energy,” Shapiro says. “If you have or suspect you have a gluten sensitivity, then removing it may decrease gas and bloating.”
It could reduce inflammation
If you don’t have celiac, you could also still see your health improve upon giving up gluten. “When you stop eating gluten, you may experience less bloating, lowered inflammation, clearer skin, more energy, and less brain fog,” Snyder says. “This is because gluten can trigger inflammation in the small intestine, which leads to a number of issues in the body like poor digestion, difficulty absorbing nutrients, and autoimmune disorders.
Once gluten is out of your system, your gut will have a chance to repair, and your body will be less burdened, freeing up more energy to help your body feel great and function optimally.”
To learn more about what happens to your body when you stop eating gluten, check out the below episode of You Versus Food.