A gluten-free diet eliminates all foods containing wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is a protein found in these foods that causes an autoimmune response in people with celiac disease. The only way to prevent celiac disease from causing symptoms such as digestive distress, skin rashes and weakness, or from developing into other autoimmune conditions, osteoporosis or cancer, is to follow a 100 percent gluten-free diet. If you are following a gluten-free diet, but experiencing lackluster energy and fatigue, consider the structure of your plan and ensure you are still getting proper nutrition.
A gluten-free diet excludes traditionally made breads, pasta, crackers, pizza and foods derived from wheat, such as soy sauce and beer. Many processed foods, including frozen dinners, condiments and sauces, canned soups, cereals and snack bars, also include wheat or barley derivatives. If these foods are staples of your diet, you may feel that a gluten-free plan leaves you limited options. A gluten-free diet is supposed to improve your health not leave you feeling lethargic and devoid of energy.
If you are new to a gluten-free plan, you may be confused as to what you can eat. As a result, you may be inadvertently limiting your intake of nutrients that provide your body with energy. Carbohydrates are the primary source of energy for the body. While wheat, barley and rye are sources of carbohydrates, they are not the only sources. If your gluten-free plan has become a low-carb plan because you are afraid all grains, cereals and breads are off-limits, you might experience energy loss.
A gluten-free diet can still include wide variety of energy-boosting foods. Along with plain meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, vegetables and fruits, you can enjoy carbohydrates such as sweet and white potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, millet, teff and amaranth. Also look for pasta made with quinoa or brown rice flour, breads made with buckwheat or millet and gluten-free bars and cereals.
A side effect of celiac disease is iron-deficiency anemia, which is characterized by fatigue and energy loss. If you are new to a gluten-free diet, your intestines may not have healed enough to absorb iron and bring your stores up. Ask your doctor if you would benefit from an iron supplement. If you are following a gluten-free diet, and feel you are ingesting enough carbohydrates, your lack of energy might be because you have not truly removed all the gluten from your diet. Even the smallest trace of gluten can make your symptoms persist. Consider replacing all pots and pans in your kitchen to remove all traces of gluten, read food labels and look for products that may be cross contaminated with wheat or that contain hidden gluten ingredients such as barley malt syrup, malt vinegar, wheat starch or enzymes. One of the symptoms of celiac is fatigue; if you have not fully healed, you will continue to feel devoid of energy.
- "Living Gluten-Free for Dummies;" Danna Korn; 2006