Should I Be Eating Gluten Free?


Should I eat gluten free? Is gluten free healthy? What is a gluten free diet? These are several of the questions I have heard lately from my patients. Everyone knows someone who has tried a gluten free diet. Some promote it for weight loss, while for others, it is a necessity. However, without proper supervision, a gluten free diet may leave you lacking many important vitamins and minerals. Gluten is a naturally occurring protein that is found in grains including wheat, rye, and barley. These are the grains found in most breads, pastas, cereals. It is also used in many processed foods to add flavor and texture.

Under the worst conditions, such as those with Celiac disease, ingesting gluten can be deadly. Celiac is an autoimmune disorder in which eating gluten causes serious damage to the small intestine. Over time, this can decrease nutrient absorption and increase the chance to develop other autoimmune disorders. Symptoms include abdominal bloating and pain, chronic diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, fatigue, and many more. Some people will cut out gluten from their diet as a preliminary test to see if it makes them feel better, but unsupervised, this can be dangerous. The only way to diagnose Celiac disease is a screening and diagnostic test from your health care provider.

A wheat allergy is another condition that may cause similar symptoms after the ingestion of gluten, but  is actually an immunologic reaction to several other proteins in wheat(including gluten). The mildest of these related conditions is gluten sensitivity. This is when symptoms are improved as a gluten free diet is adopted, but no damage will be done to the small intestine if gluten is ingested. The diagnosis for gluten sensitivity is only reached when a person tests negative for both Celiac disease and a wheat allergy.

Many people self-diagnose and start restricting their diet unsupervised, which can lead to complications down the road. Others decide to try out a gluten free diet for weight loss, which can also have unintended negative consequences.

As people start cutting out major cereal grains, they are also cutting out many vitamins and minerals that they may not get otherwise. Grains have been fortified for years with essential B Vitamins as well as Iron. B Vitamins play an important role in metabolism, and deficiencies can cause skin disorders, fatigue, and birth defects. Iron fortification in grains protects from anemia, in which symptoms range from strange cravings to irregular heartbeats. As for weight loss claims, there is no published evidence that gluten-free diets help people lose weight. For these reasons, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics does not recommend gluten-free diets for the general public. If you feel the need to try out a gluten-free diet, please speak with your doctor and a Registered Dietitian to avoid missing out on essential vitamins and nutrients.


for 99% of people,

Gluten is good.

people who tell you not to eat bread are not.