Should you be Gluten-Free?

Last month, 15 experts from 7 countries submitted a proposal, published in the medical journal, BMC Medicine, requesting the establishment of diagnostic criteria for who should be gluten-free. The American Gastroenterological Association believes that more research needs to be completed before this request can be met.

Scientists and physicians are struggling to determine exactly what constitutes the elusive condition, currently dubbed, “gluten-sensitivity.”  The symptoms range from severe to mild, but more cases show up in doctors’ offices nationwide and physicians are helpless to confirm a diagnosis. Unlike celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis, patients with “gluten-sensitivity” do not have the tell-tale antibodies to confirm a diagnosis. The lead author of the proposal, Dr. Alessio Fasano, did state that individuals with gluten-sensitivities often have more severe symptoms than celiac patients, but there are a lot of inconsistencies from patient to patient, which is why he told, “That prompted a few of us to say, ‘Let’s put some facts on the table and assess what’s known and what’s not known.’”

This “controversy” over gluten-free diets has been placed in the limelight, thanks to some comments recently tweeted by teen celebrity, Miley Cyrus, “For everyone calling me anorexic I have a gluten and lactose allergy. It’s not about weight it’s about health. Gluten is crappp anyway.”

Ironically, Miley’s story has more holes than she may realize. Gluten-free diets are not notorious for weight loss – in fact, it has been associated with increased rates of obesity. A 2010 survey revealed that 50 percent of people perceive foods labeled “gluten-free” as healthier. This is simply not the case. Cookies, pizza and pasta without wheat still add up to calories and still contain fats, sugars and other food groups that need to be moderated in your intake.

Miley also tweeted, “everyone should try no gluten for a week! The change in your skin, physical and mental health is amazing! U won’t go back!” Experts say, gluten-free is not for everyone. Many individuals who pursue a gluten-free diet tend to consume a high-fat, low fiber diet, which is not the healthiest way to eat. Fiber offers many benefits to the heart and GI tract, cutting fiber unnecessarily is not in the best interest of your health.

If you are experiencing symptoms of celiac disease, such as bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhea and unexplained weight loss, see a dietician or physician – a gluten-free diet is essential to good health in these cases. Otherwise, strive for consuming a balanced and good old-fashioned exercise – especially if your goals include good health, weight loss or weight management.

I will admit that I have tried “going gluten-free.”  After all, it is all the hype in the diet world and I just had to see what the fuss was all about. I did feel like I was less “mentally foggy,” but not so much that it was worth giving up some of my favorite foods (and it may have been a placebo effect.) Additionally, I never lost a pound pursuing a gluten-free diet, in fact I think I gained a few. As more research goes into gluten-free diets, nutrition experts are finding this diet is not ideal for everyone.


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