Gluten Free Pregnancy – Is it a Safe Diet?
Should I eat gluten free during pregnancy? Despite a growing industry around gluten-free eating, only between 0.5 and 1% of Americans genuinely suffer from celiacs disease or gluten intolerance. Unless you fit into this tiny percentage, obstetricians do not recommend a gluten free pregnancy diet.
Gluten is found in almost all food products made from wheat, rye, and barley. This includes bread, pasta, pastries, and most baked goods. Gluten is also a key ingredient in many of the highly processed foods on the market today. It is the protein which gives these foods structure and texture. It is not an unhealthy food and is present in many of the foods which for a part of a balanced and healthy diet.
In recent years, there has been a movement toward eating a gluten free diet, even for people who do not actually suffer from an intolerance. Many of these people do find that they suffer less bloating, are less susceptible to indigestion and stomach disorders, and have a sudden increase in energy when they cut gluten out of their diets. However, nutritional researchers believe that these benefits come from cutting highly processed and sugar-laden products from the diet, rather than cutting out gluten itself.
Many of our readers have been advised by friends who are followers of the ‘paleo’ and other gluten-free diets that it’s a safe and responsible way to eat when you’re pregnant. But the vast majority of obstetricians and dietitians disagree. Today we answer six commonly asked questions about gluten during pregnancy.
1. What’s the Best Way to Manage Gluten Intolerance and Pregnancy?
If you have been diagnosed with celiacs disease or gluten intolerance, you will need to continue to eat gluten-free throughout your pregnancy. But, because you now have a developing human to think of, you’ll need to be even more careful that you’re getting all the nutrients you and your baby need. By cutting out gluten, you miss out on all the nutritional benefits of whole grain foods. The biggest dietary risk with eating gluten free is that you miss out on essential b-vitamins, fiber, and minerals.
In addition, taking prenatal vitamins which include a healthy dose of folate will help to make sure that your baby’s not missing out. Most obstetricians recommend taking the vitamins for three months before conceiving and the throughout the first trimester of pregnancy. However, if you have gluten intolerance in pregnancy, it’s advisable to keep taking the vitamins for your entire pregnancy.
2. What is a Good Gluten Free Pregnancy Meal Plan?
If you’re gluten intolerant, you’ll have to work a bit harder to make sure you and your baby get a balanced diet with all the nutrients you need. Here’s a great example of a balanced day’s gluten free diet for pregnancy:
Breakfast: A Spanish Omelette with spinach and parmesan cheese. Excellent for protein folate from leafy greens, and a dash of calcium.
Snack: A piece of fruit. Try and alternate the fruits you eat and eat many different colors and textures. Fruit is a good alternative source of fiber and minerals.
Lunch: Smoked salmon and a leafy green salad. Omega 3, protein, folate, and fiber – the perfect combo for your midday meal.
Snack: A serving of homemade scroggin. Nuts and legumes are an excellent source of protein and will give you the energy burst you need to get through the afternoon.
Dinner: Steak with roast vegetables, broccoli, and broad beans. Protein, fiber, folate and B-vitamins give this meal balance. Aim to have two-thirds of your plate loaded with veggies and only a third meat.
Dessert or Snack: Frozen yogurt and berries. Another dose of calcium to end a balanced day.
Make sure you try and drink a glass of water with each meal or snack and stay well hydrated. Don’t forget to take your prenatal vitamins every day!
3. How do I Find Out if I’m Gluten Intolerant?
As we said, less than 1% of the population is genuinely gluten intolerant. Symptoms of intolerance include intestinal problems like bloating, indigestion, stomach pains, diarrhea, and fatigue. Some wheat allergies also cause allergy symptoms such as itching and hives.
Unfortunately, many of these symptoms can easily be confused with regular pregnancy symptoms. It is not uncommon to have bloating, indigestion and fatigue during pregnancy and some women sometimes confuse these symptoms with gluten intolerance. You’d be much better off to cut out processed foods that to cut out gluten itself.
The only way to find out if you’re actually suffering from a gluten intolerance is to have an appointment with a specialist and have tests run. It is not recommended that you self-diagnose a gluten allergy and then make drastic dietary changes during pregnancy.
4. Can You Develop Gluten Intolerance After Pregnancy?
Very rarely, women find that they are gluten intolerant after having a baby. However, researchers have not found a link between pregnancy and gluten sensitivity. It’s much more likely that these women were already gluten intolerant and the physical changes of pregnancy and the postpartum period made the condition become more apparent.
5. I’m not Gluten Intolerant. Is it Safe to Cut Out Gluten in Pregnancy?
It is not advisable to choose a gluten-free diet during pregnancy if you are not celiac or gluten intolerant. Look at it this way, you’re intentionally depriving yourself of an entire food group. Carbohydrates and gluten are not the enemies! Instead of cutting out gluten altogether – cut out super refined, sugar loaded white bread and cereals and go to whole grains. Look for brown bread loaded with nuts and seeds and wholemeal pasta. Avoid refined flour and sugar. You’ll get a much bigger dose of the fiber and vitamins in these foods, and feelings of fatigue, bloating, and indigestion will be reduced.
6. Can Gluten Sensitivity During Pregnancy be a Symptom?
Not in itself, no. There are no verified records of women developing a gluten intolerance during pregnancy. But, if you are gluten intolerant, it will definitely worsen some of your symptoms. If you have serious gastrointestinal symptoms (diarrhea, indigestion, cramping) see your nutritionist or obstetrician to talk about possible causes and develop a dietary plan which works for you.
7. A Friend Told me that Eating a Gluten-free Diet during Pregnancy Will Help Ease Symptoms like Indigestion. Is this True?
There is a grain (excuse the pun!) of truth in this one. But it’s not actually cutting out gluten that is relieving the symptoms. It’s most likely that your friend found her symptoms had improved because she had stopped eating the highly-processed and refined food products which contain gluten. If you switch to whole-grains and drink plenty of water, you’ll find it makes the world of difference.
Do You Have a Question about Gluten and Pregnancy that We Haven’t Answered?
If we haven’t answered your question about gluten sensitivity in pregnancy, it’s likely that someone else is wondering the same thing! Feel free to ask your question in the comments section below or to send it as a private message through our contact us page. We’ll do our best to answer as quickly and as accurately as possible.
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