It’s estimated 30-40% are gluten sensitive and don’t know it
Reducing or eliminating wheat from your diet may have positive health benefits…
Anytime you add the word “diet” to something, it seems like Hollywood and all the latest fitness fanatics will chime in on whether it’s good, bad, or the next best way to lose weight. We have the South Beach diet, the Jenny Craig Diet, the Atkinson Diet, and most recently, a Gluten Free Diet.
But going gluten free isn’t just a fad. And although many who have started following a gluten diet have reported losing weight as one of those unexpected benefits, many people make the decision to remove gluten from their diet for health and medical reasons
On the extreme end are those who have been diagnosed with celiac disease, a condition where your body simply cannot process foods containing gluten and as a result, there has been destruction to the intestinal tract.
On the less extreme, but no less important side, are those who experience various symptoms or discomfort when they eat foods containing gluten. Removing gluten often results in improvements of those symptoms.
And finally, are those who want to lose weight. Many have reported being able to easily lose weight once they go gluten free.
Can a Gluten Free Diet be Dangerous if you Don’t have Celiac Disease?
In a Timeline interview, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, a television personality who has gone gluten free, led the TV crew through the popular store Whole Foods, as she pointed out her favorite gluten free products. In the course of the interview, she made the statement that those who don’t have celiac disease would still benefit from a gluten free diet.
However, when her doctor was asked if he knew of any benefits for a person going on a gluten free diet if they don’t have celiac disease, his response was, “…not that I’m aware of…” The interview added some additional confusion to this point by saying if you didn’t have celiac disease, then going gluten free could actually be dangerous.
So who is right? Hollywood or the doctor?
Will going gluten free cause harm?
On the first point of whether or not going gluten free is beneficial even without a celiac diagnosis, there are several reasons this could be true:
- It’s estimated 30-40% of us are gluten sensitive and don’t really know it
- There are over 130 symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity including IBS, Colitis, Obesity, Neurological problems, Migraines, Infertility, Mood swings, Osteoporosis, Depression, Fatigue and Autoimmune.
- Celiac is on the rise, and because of testing difficulties and the fact that many of the symptoms of gluten intolerance can be attributed to other ailments as well, it’s hard to diagnose
- Some people have celiac disease, but no symptoms
- There are many people who don’t have the celiac “gene” so destruction to the small intestine doesn’t happen; however, damage does
As with any food allergy or sensitivity, it’s hard to get to the source of the problem. After all, who would think mood swings or a migraine, which have nothing to do with your digestive tract, would be caused by something you ate? The connection is not always evident…unless you are aware of gluten intolerance and its symptoms.
Other food allergies are easier to connect: eat bread = irritation in your bowels. Pretty direct connection, right?
How Can Gluten Free Be Dangerous?
We don’t need processed food to have great, healthy, and tasty meals…
Some believe there is a risk of lost nutrients as a result of removing gluten foods from your diet.
They say a gluten-free diet is low in fiber, B-Vitamins, and calcium and other health problems will result when you eliminate certain gluten-containing foods from your diet. They also say gluten free prepared foods (those baked goods, cereals, crackers and frozen dinners) are not fortified with extra vitamins and minerals. So when you give up processed foods which contain gluten, you lose the nutrients manufacturers add to the box.
So think about what they are saying here…you will miss the stuff (nutrients) that was there originally (when the food was ‘whole’); then they (the manufacturers) took out (during processing the food for packaging); and then added back in! hmmmm……
However, the great thing about food is we have more than one choice to get what we need. And…we don’t need processed food to have great, healthy, and tasty meals! In fact, some readers have suggested many of the most common ingredients in processed foods are also the very things most people are allergic to! So, by simply staying away from processed and packaged foods may actually give you benefits beyond gluten free.
The nutrients they are concerned you will be short on if you decide to go with a gluten free diet as are follows, and as you can see they are found naturally in foods provided to you by Mother Nature:
Fiber – fruits and vegetables
Vitamin B – fruits, veggies, animal proteins, etc.
Calcium – dairy and dark green leafy vegetables
Are There Added Health Benefits for Gluten Free?
The timeline interview suggests there is “no scientific evidence to support going gluten free would improve ADD symptoms.” This may not be true. There is scientific evidence which shows gluten impacts the nervous system only second to the digestive tract.
So while research is ongoing, it would be reasonable that any nervous system disorder may be rooted in how the system is responding to gluten.
In another study, it was concluded a gluten-free diet for celiac patients who were at the greatest risk for autoimmune disease, had a protective effect when the diagnosis for celiac came early in life.
A study involving children with autism showed improvement in behavioral measures when the subjects started a gluten free diet. They were monitored for 5 months and although there was no change in urinary compounds excreted (as they had hypothesized would happen after going gluten free), the behavioral changes were noted.
This is just a sampling of research for additional health benefits of a gluten free diet.
As with any health-related decision, it’s smart to work with your health team to determine what’s best for you and your family because each of us is unique as much as we are alike. Be aware of ongoing research and the results they are getting. And finally, be aware of the food you are consuming. Where it comes from, how it’s grown, what processes it goes through from farm to grocer’s shelf, and how you prepare it before it gets to your family’s table.
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