You know that giving up bread is a Passover tradition, but you may not know that passing the bread basket can also make significant improvement to your health.
While only a small percentage of the population suffers from celiac disease, research suggests that many more may suffer from symptoms caused by a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. In fact, the most common symptoms of what’s called “non-celiac wheat sensitivity” include digestive issues, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain, skin problems and mood changes.
If you’re like me — and the vast majority of the American population — you’ve probably experienced at least one of these symptoms, and perhaps more. And this is exactly why I follow a gluten-free diet that helps to reduce inflammation, ease digestion and even improve your mood.
During this year’s Passover celebration, as you honor your rich Jewish heritage, consider the following benefits that are often a result of giving up gluten. Maybe you’ll want to go bread-free even longer.
The Benefits of Giving Up Traditional Wheat Bread
Reduces Brain Fog and Promotes Mental Clarity
Have you ever experienced brain fog after eating a meal containing wheat or gluten? Well, you’re not alone. Consuming wheat may cause a lack of mental focus, trouble remembering and even fatigue.
Research conducted in Australia found that the majority of patients with celiac disease report memory, attention, and executive function impairments, as well as reduced speed of cognitive processing. However, researchers indicate that “subtle tests of cognitive function are measurable in untreated patients with celiac disease and improve over the first 12 months of therapy with a gluten-free diet.” Although this research concerns patients with celiac disease, the same symptoms (and benefits of going gluten-free) may be noticeable in people with a gluten intolerance.
May Help You Lose Weight
You may lose a few pounds after giving up wheat, and the reason is simple: Wheat is most often found in processed and packaged foods that are also high in sugar and sodium.
Think about the foods that serve as the biggest sources of calories in your diet. They may include pizza, pasta, baked goods and yeast breads, yet, by avoiding wheat, you are forced to forgo those high-calorie foods and instead opt for nutrient-dense whole foods that are much better for your figure.
If you’re committed to giving up wheat, you may be more likely to stay at home and prepare your own meals, as restaurant and fast food meals are notorious for sneaking wheat into the most unlikely places, including soups and salad dressings. This can further whittle your waistline, as home-cooked meals are usually lower in calories, sodium, and fat, while also being higher in nutrients and likelier to contain more fresh produce.
Finally, giving up wheat can stabilize blood sugar fluctuations that may result in cravings for more wheat or sugar (more on this later).
If you’ve ever noticed any cramping, bloating, constipation, or diarrhea after eating wheat, you may have a non-celiac gluten sensitivity that causes digestive problems. And if you do, removing wheat from your diet can help to aid digestion and reduce inflammation.
Additionally, avoiding wheat may actually improve your overall gut health. According to a scientific review published in Nutrients that highlighted both lab and human studies, the consumption of wheat and other cereal grains can “contribute to the manifestation of chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases by increasing intestinal permeability and initiating a pro-inflammatory immune response.” This intestinal permeability is called leaky gut syndrome, and it allows particles or toxins to break through your intestines and get into your bloodstream. One of the major signs of leaky gut is inflammation, along with issues of the digestive and immune systems.
May Help to Avoid Blood Sugar Fluctuations
Eating foods that are high in carbohydrates, especially refined carbs like those found in bread, may lead to blood sugar surges that cause cycles of energy spikes followed by dips. This can cause mood-related changes, including anxiety and depression, decreased energy and increased cravings. Instead of relying on bread and wheat products for energy, try gluten-free grains instead and pair them with high-quality protein and vegetables.
May Help to Clear Up Skin Issues
An intolerance or sensitivity to gluten can lead to skin issues like dermatitis, rosacea, eczema and skin rashes. This may be due to the inflammatory response that your body undergoes when it eats foods containing gluten, like wheat bread.
There are many reports that link gluten sensitivity, with or without celiac disease, with several skin conditions, so giving up wheat bread and other foods containing gluten may help to clear your skin if those reactions are, in fact, caused by a food intolerance.