Thinking About Going Gluten Free?

Looking Into the Gluten Free Diet

Gluten free food products, recipe books and even beauty products are becoming more and more readily available. While a gluten free diet is essential for those with Celiac Disease, many choose to follow a gluten free diet due to health claims shared through the media or word of mouth. Unfortunately these very same health claims often times have
no scientific evidence to support them. Common gluten free health claims not supported by scientific
evidence:

  • Gluten-free diet will lead to weight loss
  • Gluten-free diet will enhance physical performance
  • Gluten-free diet will help manage/treat: Fibromyalgia, thyroid disorders, irritable bowel disease, diabetes mellitus, down syndrome, multiple sclerosis and bipolar disorder

The truth is, current research shows gluten-free diets are more likely to result in weight gain than weight loss. One reason gluten-free diets tend to result in weight gain is due to the fact that while a variety of naturally gluten-free foods exist, many individuals looking to make the change to a gluten-free diet rely heavily on gluten-free specially products. Gluten free specialty products include flours, cereals, breads, cookies and pastas. Methods used by manufactures to replace the gluten in these products include using additional sugar and fat to achieve comparable textures and flavor.

It is also important to note that the Food and Drug Administration regulations which require enrichment of mainstream refined grain products to prevent nutritional deficiencies does not apply to gluten-free products. Therefore gluten-free specialty products are commonly higher in sugar and fat and offer less fiber, vitamins and minerals when compared to their regular enriched gluten-containing counterparts!

Nutritious and naturally gluten free foods: vegetables, fruits, nuts, beans, seeds, dairy, fish, poultry, herbs and spices.

In the gluten-free diets defense, there is evidence which indicates a gluten free diet may be beneficial for a few other conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome, schizophrenia, psoriasis and ataxia. In addition, individuals with autoimmune disorders do have a higher risk for celiac disease and should also be screened. However, even in the setting of the conditions mentioned it is important to rule out celiac disease through appropriate blood test screening prior to starting a gluten free diet – otherwise future celiac disease screening may result in false negatives.

In summary a gluten free diet is essential for some but may be of no benefit to many. Patients, family members and/or friends expressing interests in a gluten-free diet should be aware of the risks associated with an inadequately planned gluten-free eating pattern. With appropriate planning and guidance from a nutrition expert, a healthful and balanced gluten-free diet is attainable.

Written by Cynthia Lopez, RDN at Golden Valley Health Centers