The Risks and Benefits of Going Gluten-Free

October 31, 2016
The Risks & Benefits of Going Gluten Free

A growing number of grocers are now offering gluten-free products that cater to people with celiac disease. Unfortunately, widespread misinformation has pushed these products on people who have no need for them. If you're confused about this latest dietary fad, learn about gluten-free benefits and risks.
What Is Gluten?
Found in wheat, rye and barley, gluten refers to proteins in a cereal grain’s endosperm. Its main role is to nourish plant embryos during germination. It also impacts the elasticity of dough, which contributes to the chewy nature of baked goods.
Who Should Avoid Gluten?
For people who suffer from celiac disease, gluten causes an abnormal immune response that can damage the lining of the small intestine. This not only prevents key nutrients from being absorbed, it can also cause a number of troubling symptoms, including anemia, diarrhea, bone pain and severe skin rashes. Some people without celiac disease can also have sensitivities to gluten, and sometimes feel better when they eat gluten-free diets.
The Problem with Gluten-Free Diets
According to health experts, only 1 percent of Americans actually have celiac disease. Due to widespread misinformation, however, a large number of people have begun avoiding food products that contain gluten. This means avoiding nutritious, whole-grain foods high in essential vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Since gluten is nearly ubiquitous in American food products, people must adopt whole new diets to avoid it. This can be extremely expensive. At the same time, it can lead to nutritional deficiencies and an increased risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes and some forms of cancer.
Should You Go Gluten-Free?
Unless you have celiac disease or an obvious sensitivity to wheat, rye and barley, there's no reason to go gluten-free. If you suspect you may be intolerant of gluten, visit your doctor. Blood tests can usually show antibodies related to abnormal immune responses. If these tests come up positive, your doctor may recommend a biopsy to check for inflammation in the lining of the small intestines.

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