One of the newest food fads in the last couple years is the gluten-free diet. Some people use it to lose weight, to help minor stomach issues, but for many Americans an intolerance to gluten is not a fad.
A gluten-free diet is not something they try to get rid of some belly fat, it is a lifestyle they follow because their bodies cannot tolerate gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in many grain products like bread and pasta but also in the food's pure form of wheat, barley, and rye as well. The intestines of someone who is intolerant of gluten can be gradually damaged which prevents vitamins and minerals like iron and folate from being absorbed.
The lack of absorption of these vitamins can affect everything from energy to brain function, and can create a variety of health issues like diarrhea and acne. Some with an extreme intolerance may be diagnosed with celiac disease.
People with celiac disease have varied symptoms that can masquerade as other health problems. These symptoms can include headaches, tingling in one's extremities, fatigue, muscle pain, skin rashes, joint pain, and more.
Celiac disease affects 1 percent of the American public, but up to 10 percent of the population may suffer from gluten sensitivity, or non-celiac gluten intolerance. Some experts believe that everyone has some form of intolerance to gluten.
Since diagnosing gluten intolerance is difficult for doctors, eliminating gluten might be something someone having gastrointestinal problems may want to try.
Gluten-free diets are extremely difficult to follow but sales of gluten-free products are on the rise, according to a 2011 CNN article.
Gluten-free diets may help some people but they are not necessarily great weight loss tools. According to an email interview with Frances Shaw, owner of Frannie's Gluten Free muffin company, gluten-free eating is not about trying to lose weight.
"Gluten-free baked goods still have calories and sugar just like their gluten containing counterparts." She continued, "It’s important to focus on a balanced diet and read nutritional information on processed foods. For example, vegetables are a great example of healthy gluten-free ingredients."
However, eating gluten-free does present healthy options. In the emailed interview Shaw stated, "if you’re trying to lose weight by eating gluten-free, load up on vegetables! Reducing gluten in your diet can help you lose weight if you are eating less carbs overall."
CNN.com. Web. Published 12 April 2011. "Will a gluten-free diet improve your life?"
Email interview with Frances Shaw on September 19, 2013.
Reviewed October 10, 2013
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith