The gluten-free diet is quickly becoming one of the biggest health fads. But what is gluten and why is it the newest fad? I am sure you have gone into a grocery store and seen gluten-free products or been to a restaurant that offers gluten-free options, and thought would this be better for me? For some of the people, the gluten-free diet is far from a fad. Celiac disease, which can now be found in one of three million Americans is a fatal disease. People who have celiac disease can not have ANY gluten or they can risk damage to their intestines, which can cause serious illness and possibly lead to early death. The only way to treat celiac is with a gluten-free diet. That means nothing with gluten. Ever. For the rest of their life. No exceptions.
People that follow a gluten-free diet can normally fall into one of three categories: those who have Celiac disease, people who do not have celiac disease but have gastrointestinal problems that improve when they go on a gluten-free diet, and people who go on it because the see gluten-free and they assume it must be healthy. So what is gluten and is it healthy for you if you don’t have celiac disease or gastrointestinal problems?
“Gluten is a special type of protein that is commonly found in rye, wheat, and barley. Therefore, it is found in most types of cereals and in many types of bread. Not all foods from the grain family, however, contain gluten. Examples of grains that do not have gluten include wild rice, corn, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa, teff, oats, soybeans, and sunflower seeds.”
Is a gluten-free diet good for you if you don’t have celiac disease? I found an article called “Is Gluten-Free Diet Good for You” and they say “Most food intolerance occurs on a spectrum,” says David Katz, MD, MPH, of the Yale Prevention Research Center. “Celiac disease is severe. Milder forms of gluten intolerance could contribute to systemic inflammation, which could worsen other disorders because of general immune-function impairment. So it’s plausible, if not proven, that gluten could be a contributing factor in some conditions.” Katz thinks lesser degrees of gluten intolerance are common.
If you decide to limit gluten, don’t fill up on the new gluten-free alternatives, which are often made with refined flours. “When you rely on them, your diet may be low in fiber and nutrients such as folic acid,” says Jeannie Gazzaniga-Moloo, PhD, RD, of the American Dietetic Association. But if you don’t have celiac, and you aren’t gluten intolerant, is there any reason to go on this demanding diet? None at all, Katz- says. And if you’re thinking you’ll lose weight, forget it. “Most packaged gluten-free products are not low in calories,” Gazzaniga-Moloo says. Kupper adds the kicker: “People who’ve been on a long-term gluten-free diet can put on as much as 30 pounds of weight.”
If there are certain products that are gluten-free that you like, you shouldn’t stop eating them, it’s not bad! Some people claim gluten-free products give them higher energy levels and overall wellness. If you don’t have celiac disease, it is honestly a personal preference whether or not you eat gluten-free products. Some people just like the taste better, others can’t stand it. Just be remember that if you don’t have celiac to be careful on how much you limit your gluten intake because removing all gluten when you don’t have to can result in lack of nutrients such as fiber.
To learn more about gluten-free diets and celiac disease or where to eat gluten-free there are some great resources out there. I recommend you check out:
- Celiac Chicks- a blog to a “hip & healthy gluten-free lifestyle”
- Gluten Free Guide- a guide to living gluten-free
- Gluten-Free Diets Gaining in Popularity – an article in USA Today