The Gluten-Free Diet

Understanding the Gluten Free DietThe Gluten-Free diet is an excellent choice for people who have certain health conditions. It is not ideal for everyone. Before you begin a new diet, it is a good idea to speak with your doctor about it.

What is the Gluten-Free diet?
A gluten-free diet is one that excludes foods that contain gluten. Gluten is the general name for the proteins that are found in wheat (durum, emmer, spelt, farina, farro, KAMUT, khorasan wheat, and einkorn) rye, barley, and triticale. Gluten acts as a glue that holds foods together.

People who go on a gluten-free diet stop eating foods that contain gluten. They might do this by replacing foods that contain wheat with similar versions that are made from rice. Fruits and vegetables do not contain gluten. It is also possible to find gluten-free versions of many foods and treats.

Where did the Gluten-Free diet come from?
The gluten-free diet was designed as a treatment for celiac disease. Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. This causes damage to their intestines and makes it more difficult for them to obtain nutrition from the food they eat.

The gluten-free diet has also been beneficial for people who are allergic to wheat, rye, barley and/or triticale. It may provide some relief of symptoms for people who have a gluten intolerance. (Symptoms can include abdominal pain, bloating, gas, diarrhea, and constipation).

Gluten-Free Diet Controversies
There are two diet books that became popular not long after they were published. Wheat Belly was written by William Davis, M.D. Grain Brain was written by David Perlmutter, M.D. People who read these books become convinced that the way to lose weight is to stop eating foods that contain gluten (such as wheat). They presume that grains are causing inflammation, and that they can lose weight if they stop eating all grains.

There is another controversy with the gluten-free diet. A popular food blogger has been encouraging healthy people to tell their server that they are allergic to gluten – when they really aren’t. It is unclear exactly what purpose this falsehood is supposed to serve.

Potential Dangers of the Gluten-Free Diet
People who have health issues that require them to maintain a gluten-free diet can end up with low levels of vitamins and nutrients in their diets. One way to avoid this problem is to ask a dietitian if you are getting enough iron, calcium, fiber, riboflavin, niacin, and folate.

An inadequate amount of fiber can lead to constipation. This can be avoided by making sure you get enough fiber from vegetables or from gluten-free grains that contain fiber. Some who choose the gluten-free diet, but do not need it, assume they must stop eating all grains in order to lose weight.

Image by Andrea Nguyen on Flickr.

Related Articles at Families.com:

* What is Celiac Disease?

* 5 Steps to Frugal Dieting

* Is it Safe to Restrict Carbs?