Contrary to what food companies and marketing campaigns promote, a gluten-free diet is often LESS healthy. Yes, less healthy. Why? Because many of these diets lack some very important ingredients – fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Now let’s be clear – a well designed gluten-free diet can be healthy, however, many of the gluten-free diets are lacking in some or all of the ingredients mentioned above and are therefore nutritionally deficient.
Let’s step back for a moment and define gluten and why so many people are adopting this trendy fad – a gluten-free diet. Gluten is a protein and most often enters our diets through grains such as wheat, barley, and rye.
Some of the Common Foods that Contain Gluten are:
Malt, malt syrup, malt extract
Wheat, wheat germ, wheat bran
Some of the Common Foods that are Naturally Gluten-Free
Wild Rice, Brown Rice, other rice
For some people, yes. These are people who suffer from Celiac Disease, which is an abnormal or adverse immune response to gluten. This immune response is usually in the form of a chronic inflammation and can cause damage to the lining of the small intestine. And when this lining is damaged the body’s ability to absorb some important nutrients is impaired.
It is estimated that 2.4 million Americans suffer from Celiac disease. Some of the other associated conditions are that these people may also become lactose intolerant or suffer from anemia, a lack of enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin in the body.
For people suffering from Celiac Disease a gluten-free diet can give them a healthy life. But it has its challenges because entire food groups have to be avoided. Foods such as breakfast cereals, most breads, most pasta, pastry goods, crackers, and many processed foods that contained small amounts of gluten. In addition, many of the packaged gluten-free food products can lead to weight gain because they contain relatively large amounts of sugar, fat, and trans-fat.
The most confusing aspect of Celiac Disease is that it often has few or no symptoms. Doctors estimate that only about 5% to 10% of the people in the U.S. suffering from this disease are diagnosed.
Other people have symptoms that are very clear to their physician. These symptoms can include diarrhea, skin rash, and anemia.
Doctors will usually test for an antibody in the blood of a patient that has some of the symptoms mentioned above. If the test is positive then a biopsy is usually suggested. A very small portion of the lining of the small intestine will be removed and tested.