Gluten Free ? That is the question

Gluten Free:
To Be… or Not to Be…
That is the Question!

Northeast Ohio Celiac Network

Written by Laurie Sammon

Gluten Free seems to be everywhere you look. Should you be gluten free? For those with celiac disease,
A strict gluten free diet, considered a medical diet, is their only treatment. No medication or therapy, just a strict adherence to not eating anything made from wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats (which can be cross contaminated). Not even a crumb!

Why no gluten for those with celiac disease?
The gluten protein found in these grains causes intestinal damage to those diagnosed, often after years of baffling gastro-intestinal distress, or unexplained symptoms: i.e. diarrhea, constipation, bloating, weight loss, infertility, anemia, osteoporosis, peripheral neuropathy, skin problems, or muscle wasting. Celiac disease is both an autoimmune and genetic condition, triggered by gluten.

For those without celiac disease?
Some people have been tested and celiac disease was ruled out. They’ve noticed symptoms stop on a GF diet, so they are considered gluten sensitive or gluten intolerant. No damage happens internally, but the symptoms are often the same as those with celiac disease. They may choose to totally eliminate gluten, or cut back on it. Others with autism, rheumatoid arthritis, neuropathy and more, find relief from symptoms, although science can’t verify. Some find GF foods easier to digest.

Is the gluten free diet a weight loss diet?
No. But first—— think about what items in the grocery store do not have grains in them. THESE ARE ALL GLUTEN FREE: fruit, vegetables, milk, real cheese, eggs, plain meat, juice, beans, fish, and seafood. Most of these are found at the perimeter of the grocery store. Eating these foods in moderation will help with weight loss. But how many people are able to eat just these foods all the time, or limit flour based products in their diet— cookies, cake, pasta, cereal, bread, pizza, crackers, etc.? So, gluten free products exist for those on the life-long strict gluten free diet.

Baked goods are baked goods. Regular or GF, they add calories…
Gluten free baked goods sometimes have more fat and sugar added to improve the texture of the GF substitute flours in them (i.e. potato, rice, sorghum, garbanzo, amaranth, millet, quinoa, tapioca flours). Most GF flours are not enriched while regular wheat flour is enriched with, B vitamins, iron, calcium & sometimes fiber. So GF baked goods may have more calories and less nutrition than their gluten counterparts, although some GF companies have begun to enrich. Supplemental B vitamins, fiber, iron & calcium should be discussed with a doctor.

Are gluten free foods here to stay or just a fad?
Only about 17% of people with celiac disease have been diagnosed, yet 1:133 have the condition. Recent statistics from the University of Maryland’s Celiac Disease Center have estimated another 1-6% of the population as gluten sensitive. That means as many as 20 million Americans are affected by gluten. Gluten free foods are here to stay to help those who have been diagnosed or have found relief from symptoms.

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