By: Claire Kositzky
Sports and Health Editor
It was not until a few years ago that the words celiac, gluten and vegan started to become apart of society’s vocabulary. These strange words started appearing on menus and were mysterious topics of conversation amongst people. Now, grocery stores dedicate aisles solely to those living gluten-free and vegan only diets. It seems as though these lifestyles are a huge trend amongst foodies these days because they are perceived as “healthy.” What does it really mean to be gluten free or to only eat vegan products?
Gluten is a general name that is used for the numerous proteins that are found in starches like wheat, rye, barley and triticale. Gluten is the glue that makes our food stick together. It also helps our food hold its shape. Normally, our bodies are not affected by gluten unless there is a problem in the small intestines. Celiac disease is where the body plans an immune response to attack the small intestines. This leads to damaged villi. This villi line our small intestine and absorb nutrients. When these villi become damaged, our bodies are unable to absorb nutrients. This can develop at any age and, if untreated, can lead to type I diabetes, anemia, migraines and other serious health problems. By avoiding products with gluten, the body’s villi lining the small intestines will slowly heal.
Some mothers with autistic children are changing their autistic children’s diets to gluten free and have seen changes in their behavior; although, there is not much research to see if this is particular connection between autism and the children’s diet.
Veganism, known as vegan, is a diet that does not contain animal products. Those who are vegans will not eat anything that comes from an animal or contains animal products. Vegans do not consume meat, dairy and egg products. Vegans also have to particularly careful as to what type of sugar and alcohol they consume. Certain sugars and alcohol are made with animal products. What do vegans exactly eat then? Vegans eat a diet rich in grains, beans, vegetables and fruit. Since this is becoming quite popular, food products are creating their own versions of ice cream, mayonnaise and hot dogs that are considered vegan free.
People who decide to “go vegan” need to be extra cautious as to how they receive the proper nutrients that our bodies need. Humans are omnivores. We were designed to consume both plants and animals. In order to survive, our bodies need vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that plays an important role in the functions of every cell throughout the human body. B12 is only found in animal products such as meat, dairy, eggs, poultry, and very few algae. Creatine helps form and reservoir energy in cells. Low amounts of creatine are commonly found in vegans and can be harmful on brain activity and the muscles.
If interested in becoming gluten free or vegan, it is important to research where one can get their vitamins and nutrients that would normally come from animal products from other supplements. While sometimes these diets can be a temporary fix to a health problem, it is still best to eat everything in moderation.