the keto diet

Is the Keto Diet gluten-free?

In recent years, both gluten-free diets and the Keto Diet have become increasingly popular. Many people have reduced or eliminated the amount of grain in their diet. Although both diets are currently trending, they have both been used medically for a number of years and it is only recently that they have had a wider appeal. They certainly both have similarities, but is the Keto Diet Gluten-free?

A little bit of history

The Keto Diet or Ketosis Diet first appeared in the 1920s when several doctors at the Mayo Clinic started experimenting with fat-focused diets to see if they positively impacted children suffering from epilepsy. The doctors had read that the Ancient Greeks had found that this type of diet could help control epileptic seizures.

For the next 20 years, diet was widely used to treat epilepsy. After that, new drugs were introduced that have proved successful, but even today, the Keto Diet is still successfully used to treat epilepsy- especially in children- and several other medical conditions. 

Worldwide interest in the Keto Diet was fuelled in 1997 when Meryl Streep starred in the film First Do No Harm. The film tells the story of a young boy called Charlie and his father Jim, a Hollywood Producer, who searched for a cure for his son’s epilepsy.

Jim heard about the diet and the film shows how it rapidly brought Charlie’s seizures under control. Everyone was suddenly interested in the diet, especially when it was found that it was an effective way to lose weight, but brought with it many other health bonuses.

Coeliacs Disease was first recognized by an Ancient Greek physician in the first century AD when he realized that some foods would pass through his patients’ bodies in their raw state having not been digested. He also realized the reason why –  the body could not cope with digesting grains. Ancient man had lived on berries and nuts and eaten fish and meat only occasionally. The later man had learned how to cultivate plants to eat, but the human gut in some people could not cope with the changes in the diet.

It was not until the 1940s that it was found that by eliminating gluten entirely from the diet of those with Coeliac Disease could eliminate all the symptoms and problems associated with the disease. Today 1 in 100 children are found to be Coeliac.

Many other people follow a gluten-free diet to keep their dermatitis under control or because their stomach is gluten sensitive. Although it is tough for Coeliacs not to be able to eat all the delicious products containing gluten, the nutritional loss is small and can be easily compensated.

How the Keto Diet works

The Keto Diet is fat-focused and drastically reduces the daily intake of carbohydrates to a level of between 20- 50g. Not having a steady supply of carbohydrates deprives the body of glucose which it uses to generate energy. The Keto Diet also allows just a very modest amount of proteins to be eaten each day too. Without plenty of carbohydrates, after about four days, the body searches for another source of fuel and starts to burn fat instead. This triggers a metabolic state called ‘ketosis’.

When the body is in ketosis, it is only burning fats rather than carbs for energy. The body’s blood sugars are lowered and importantly, the body starts to make a substance called ketones in the liver, and these ketones are used to supply the brain.

When you follow the Keto Diet, you do not have to count calories, but you must be careful about the type of foods you eat and in what proportion and only eat a small number of carbohydrates. The ideal composition of the daily diet is 75% fat, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrates. During the first three months on the diet, people lose weight faster because of a very low carbohydrate level.  

Decreasing the number of carbohydrates in your body means eating healthy foods such as meat, fish, eggs, nuts, and healthy fats and oils. Leafy green vegetables can be eaten in abundance, but no fruit other than a few berries as fruit contains sugar.

What does going gluten-free mean?

Eating food that does not contain gluten is the only treatment that works for those suffering from Coeliac Disease. This is because their immune system reacts to gluten and causes damage to the gut. Gluten can be found in the grains wheat, barley, and rye, but some Coeliacs are also sensitive to oats.

Eating gluten-free food is not a diet as such, more of a lifestyle choice to ensure really good health. Meat, fish, fruit, vegetables, rice, and potatoes can all be eaten as well as substitute foods that are gluten-free.

Although the Keto Diet is not gluten-free; it is possible to make it so, with the careful choice of carbohydrates in your daily diet. Before starting the Keto Diet, it is worth researching what is involved. Because the Keto Diet causes quite a dramatic physiological change, it is very important to speak with your doctor if you intend to follow it and remain gluten-free.

In many ways, because the Keto is very restrictive about the amount and kind of grains that can be eaten, it is easier for those who are already on a gluten-free diet to make the transition to Keto with the promise of many health benefits.

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