Should I Gluten-Free?


The whole world has been going gaga over everything gluten-free from cupcakes to cosmetics for weight loss, digestive problem, healthy glowing skin, thyroid disease, more energy and so on and being a dietitian its only natural to get curious about what this fiasco is

all about. 

images from google

See when I was in school which is less than five years ago, the term gluten-free (GF) appeared more on my text book rather than food packages. But now major grocery stores have a separate GF aisle and you will most likely meet someone on GF diet at a party or something. I don't know if this trend will last forever but I thought its important for me to get down to nitty gritty on gluten-free before someone asks me for GF shampoo recommendation. 

Gluten isa protein most commonly found in wheat and other related grains, such as barley and rye, durum, spelt, farro, graham, kamut, and semolina.  People MUST eliminate gluten from their diet primarily if they have wheat allergy, gluten intolerance (non-celiac gluten sensitivity), and celiac disease. 

Wheat allergy is a food allergy that generates an allergy-causing antibody to any of the proteins found in wheat.  Less than 1% of people have a wheat allergy.

Gluten intolerance, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or gluten sensitivity is characterized by symptoms that are similar to celiac disease without any damage to the intestines. Ingestion of gluten causes inflammation to the inside and outside the digestive tract. An estimated 10-50% of people suffer from gluten intolerance.

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease. When gluten is ingested, the small intestine becomes inflamed and the immune system goes into overdrive causing the body to attack the intestinal tissue.  The villi that line the intestines become damaged and in turn the body is unable to properly absorb nutrients eventually leading to chronic malnutrition.  It is estimated that 1 in every 133 Americans have Celiac Disease, and 97% of them don’t know it.

If you are diagnosed with any of these condition, particularly celiac disease - going gluten free strictly is not a choice but a diet for life but what about the rest?

Despite recent popularity and celebrity endorsements, there is no published experimental evidence to support any benefit for general population and definitely not for weight loss. However, one may lose weight on GF diet after eliminating many processed goods such as cookies, donuts, chips which often contains gluten and are laden with high calories and fats. 

Is giving up gluten dangerous?


Since whole grains that contain gluten are a major source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as niacin, folate, iron etc and if not done right, one might become deficit which could further lead to additional health problems.

So should I gluten-free or not?

If you experience GI issues (intolerance, bloating, gas, indigestion), eczema, cramping, irritability, weight loss, aching joints etc - instead of self experimenting with gluten-free diets I would highly highly suggest first making an appointment with your doctor, discuss your symptoms, and find what tests is appropriate in order get actual diagnoses. 

If you want to eliminate gluten from your diet from other reasons besides celiac/gluten intolerance/allergies:

  • Remember that anything labeled as “gluten-free" isn't necessarily healthy as these products can be high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates like their counterparts. 
  • By eliminating gluten from your diet, you will be missing out on B-vitamins, fiber, iron etc so find a way to supplement these nutrients through other food or dietary supplements.
  • Also remember the hefty price tag on most gluten free products.

Call me a broken record but

fresh produce, whole grains, lean protein, low fat dairy, and nuts

has shown to be associated much strongly not only with weight loss but also preventing other chronic diseases like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart diseases - so instead of buying processed gluten-free products, lets hit the farmers market more often shall we?

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Please feel free to share your thoughts or any experiences.