Is a Gluten-Free Diet for You?
Posted: November 1, 2012
Let’s examine what a gluten-free diet is and who would or would not benefit.
Gluten is the protein found in the following grains: wheat, barley, rye and triticale. It gives products made from these grains their structure and elasticity for the dough to rise. It is also a popular food additive in many baked goods, cereals, malt, caramel flavorings, breads, cookies and pastas. Gluten-free grains and starches include: amaranth, arrowroot, corn, flax, millet, oats (but watch since oats are often milled where wheat is, so could be contaminated), potato, quinoa, rice, tapioca, and flours made from nuts, beans and seeds. These grains are starches are no healthier than those with gluten, a common misconception.
The trouble with gluten is for some people, an estimated 1 in 133, their body’s intestinal system creates an inflammatory response to the gluten, causing a cascade of reactions such as abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, malabsorption of nutrients, weight loss, dermatitis, swelling, mouth ulcers, osteoporosis, and bone fractures. When they are diagnosed, the disease state is celiac disease, and these people must avoid gluten. For some people, they may test negative for celiac disease, but still feel better from eliminating gluten; in this case they may have gluten intolerance. However, there is much controversy about this diagnosis since there is no definitive test for gluten intolerance.
If you suspect you may have a problem with gluten, it is important to check with your doctor to get diagnosed before you eliminate gluten and spend money on all those expensive gluten-free products. The key to a proper diagnosis is you must be ingesting gluten to see if you have any gluten intolerance, celiac disease or not. Many people are self-diagnosing, which can be very problematic, as they are missing several essential nutrients including: iron, calcium fiber, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate. These deficiencies over time can lead to several medical problems like anemias and osteoporosis, to name a few. Your doctor will refer you to a registered dietitian for further dietary analysis and recommendations if you do have any gluten issues or not. To find out more about celiac disease, see the National Association for Celiac Awareness.
- Nutrition, Food Safety & Health Senior Educator