Nutritional Trends: Gluten Reduction and the DASH Diet
I’m always looking for new ways to use nutritional habits to improve health and prevent illness. Why? Because I am a firm believer in the fact that we truly are what we eat. Not every illness can be prevented through good nutrition, but there are a surprising number of illnesses that are highly preventable through dietary changes.
Two emerging nutritional trends that I’ve been reading a lot about lately are gluten reduction and what’s known as the DASH diet. There is still a lot more research to be done in both areas, but what we know thus far is very encouraging. Just these two trends alone could be used to treat millions of people suffering from autoimmune diseases and hypertension.
Gluten and Autoimmune Disease
According to a highly informative article published by Medical Daily, some 59 million Americans are currently suffering from some sort of autoimmune disease. And with more than 80 such diseases to choose from, it is tough for doctors to get a handle on just what is common among them. Autoimmune diseases are problematic because they cause the immune system to act in abnormal ways that produce symptoms ranging from the mildly annoying to the potentially dangerous.
One of the autoimmune diseases frequently mentioned in the news is celiac disease. It is mentioned so often because it is used to promote the gluten-free diet that is so popular among middle-aged and younger Americans. But it turns out that gluten reduction isn’t just good for celiac disease; it also helps Hashimoto’s disease as well.
It is believed that gluten in the diet may make things worse for a number of autoimmune diseases because the body falsely recognizes it as an allergen. By reducing the gluten, it is believed that such reactions can be mitigated. For people who are prone to autoimmune diseases due to family history and genetics, limiting gluten in the diet could mean the difference in staving off future disease.
The DASH Diet for Hypertension
Medical science has long known that nutrition has an effect on hypertension (blood pressure). For example, it is common knowledge that sodium can be a contributor to hypertension in some people. The problem we have had all of these years has been one of looking at individual nutrients to find one or two culprits responsible for causing high blood pressure. We since discovered that people react differently to the levels of nutrients in their systems. For some individuals with hypertension, sodium can be very dangerous. It has a minimal effect on others.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet sets aside the single nutrient approach in favor of an approach that looks at how a combination of nutrients work together to prevent hypertension. In that sense, it is not a diet to manage weight. It is a more of a holistic approach to nutrition that seeks to combine the right balance of nutrients to prevent hypertension.
People participating in the DASH diet go through a period of determining what their dietary needs are, followed by the development of a specific nutritional plan that includes the right proportions of whole
grains, unrefined breads, vegetables, fruits, dairy, meat and poultry, fish, legumes, seeds and dried beans.
Every few months, we see a new nutritional trend that promises to ward off some sort of illness or malady. Many of those trends turn out to be nothing more than false hope, but some of them do eventually prove to be legitimate. Gluten reduction and the DASH diet are two examples of genuine nutritional practices that can help ward off disease.