Gluten Free: Is It for Me?Apr 17, 2023
Katie Breazeale, MS, RD, LD
There is an interesting hype when it comes to gluten; is it healthy or not, do you need to cut it out of your diet for weight loss, heartburn, inflammation, or migraines, are you intolerant or allergic or have an underlying medical diagnosis, is it genetic?
Let’s start at the beginning. What is gluten? Gluten is a binding protein found in wheat, rye, barley, triticale, malt, Brewer’s yeast, and different derivatives of wheat. If you don’t see gluten free on the packaging double check your label.
It’s not just in food either. Gluten can be found in lip products, dental products, nutrition supplements and vitamins, even playdough!
Is gluten unhealthy? No. Can it be found in foods that we tend to overindulge in? Absolutely! Let’s say you go gluten free, and you lose weight. Was it the gluten causing weight gain, or did you just eliminate foods such as pastries, donuts, beer, excess pasta, muffins…you get my drift. By eliminating gluten, you took out some fattier food choices, and maybe even some that you like to indulge in.
What about the claims for reducing inflammation, improving reflux, or migraines? According to the research, the evidence does not support any of these theories. Some research showed positive improvements with reflux if the individual has celiac disease. Same for migraines- the research showed that migraines are a symptom of celiac, but going gluten free does not improve migraines.
So why is everyone going gluten free?
Gut feeling. It feels like the right decision.
Testimonies. The friend of a friend did it and their reflux stopped, they lost 40 pounds, and they have no inflammation.
Celebs. This celebrity tried it, wrote a book, and so it must be a great idea. You love this celebrity, and they do no wrong so they wouldn’t lead you astray.
Marketing. The power of marketing is a real thing. How are you to say no when it is on the best seller book list, the doctor told you about it, and they’re making so many food options now to support a gluten free diet and make it easier for you. It’s like it was meant to be.
What about the people who really are gluten free? There are people who must be gluten free. Those with celiac disease are the primary ones who have to watch what they eat. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine. If someone with celiac disease were to eat gluten their body would create an immune response attacking the small intestine.
Symptoms to watch out for in celiac disease:
Bloating and gas
Depression and anxiety
Headaches or migraines
Itchy, blistery skin rash (dermatitis herpetiformis)
Mouth ulcers and canker sores
Nausea and vomiting
Osteoporosis and osteomalacia
Reduced functioning of the spleen (hyposplenism)
In kids it can delay puberty
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you can talk to your doctor about getting tested for celiac. Did you know dietitians work with people to help alleviate GI symptoms? Whether it is celiac or another GI disease we can help. Your doctor can write a referral for you to see us or if your insurance doesn’t cover it, you can still work with a dietitian for an out-of-pocket fee.
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