Recently, even people without celiac disease have been praising the benefits of a gluten-free diet, but how do you know if the gluten-free lifestyle is for you? Going gluten free is no picnic in the park (picnics usually have sandwiches and pies, after all), so before you make the switch here’s the info you need to know.

What Is Gluten Anyway?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and grains related to it, like rye and barley. Gluten is what gives bread its wonderfully chewy texture. When you knead bread dough, you’re developing gluten strands, which is why you don’t knead pie crust. The best bagels are made with special high-gluten flour, which is why they can be especially torturous for people with gluten sensitivity.

Are You Sensitive to Gluten?
If you suspect you’re allergic to gluten, finding out is actually a fairly simple process. To determine whether you have a celiac disease, doctors can perform a blood test to determine if antibodies are attacking your intestines. If you don’t think you have celiac disease but suspect you might have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, an elimination diet could yield some answers. Eliminate gluten from your diet for several weeks, then slowly reincorporate it, and notice how it affects your body to determine if you have gluten sensitivity.

How to Go Gluten-Free
Living a gluten-free lifestyle isn’t easy. Gluten can pop up in foods and ingredients you’d never expect, like malt vinegar or stocks, so always check the labels carefully if you’re serious about being gluten-free.  Most pre-packaged foods call out whether they contain gluten, but here’s the Mayo Clinic’s list for a gluten-free diet.

The Benefits of Going Gluten-Free
If you’re trying to lose weight, many people report weight loss as a welcome side effect of a gluten-free diet. However, experts say that’s not the case. If pizza, muffins, cupcakes, sandwiches, unlimited breadsticks, etc., are a regular part of your diet, and you replace them with their gluten-free counterparts, you’re probably not going to lose much weight. If, however, you replace them with vegetables, beans, and other low-calorie high-fiber foods there is a chance you’ll drop some pounds.

You’ll also need to increase your fiber intake — the fiber found in whole grain foods is essential to good health, so you’re going to have to find a way to replace the fiber and vitamins and minerals you’re cutting out of your diet if you decide to go gluten-free.

In short, only you (and maybe a doctor) can decide if you should go gluten-free. The important thing is to listen to your body and do what feels best to make you your best, healthiest self.

Related articles:
5 Simple Habits to Start Feeling Better Today
Proven Vitality: 5 Lifestyle Changes to Look Good Inside and Out No Matter Your Age
Food Allergies: How to Know and What to Do