Gluten Free? Is it really that big of a health concern?

These days it seems as if the definition of healthy food is if it’s gluten-free. More and more products in the supermarket are labeled gluten-free and many restaurants are offering gluten-free options. For people with celiac disease, this is a necessity. According to the University of Chicago Medicine Celiac Disease Center:

“Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive process of the small intestine. When a person who has, celiac disease consumes gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, the individual’s immune system responds by attacking the small intestine and inhibiting the absorption of important nutrients into the body. Undiagnosed and untreated, celiac disease can lead to the development of other autoimmune disorders, as well as osteoporosis, infertility, neurological conditions and in rare cases, cancer.”

It seems like more and more people are going on gluten-free diets for reasons such as losing weight, feeling energized and to generally lead a healthier lifestyle. However, is there a truth to their decision and is gluten unhealthy for you if you don’t suffer from a sensitivity or celiac disease? 

Dr. Daniel A. Leffler, director of a clinical research at the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School stated:

“People who are sensitive to gluten may feel better, but a larger portion will derive no significant benefit from the practice. They’ll simply waste their money because these products are expensive,” says Dr. Leffler. 

Contrary to the general opinion that Gluten is found in bread, cereal, pizza, pasta, beer and other products which contain wheat it is also found in many other products such as frozen vegetables, soy sauce or even toothpaste. Therefore, following a gluten-free diet might be tricky.

“The average American diet is deficient in fiber,” says Dr. Leffler. ͞Take away whole wheat and the problem gets worse.”

If there is no medical reason for removing a gluten from your diet the benefits of consuming gluten-containing products are larger than the supposed impact that gluten has on health. 

If you feel that you might be gluten sensitive or have celiac disease visit your doctor before you go on a gluten-free diet since it is more complicated to get diagnosed once you established a diet.