Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. For people diagnosed with celiac disease (a disorder marked by an autoimmune response to gluten), even small amounts of gluten can damage the small intestine and prevent the body from absorbing nutrients. Those with celiac disease often experience digestive problems, diarrhea, fatigue, and even anemia. It’s estimated that 1 in every 133 Americans has celiac disease — but only 3% of them actually know it. That leaves a whole lot of people avoiding gluten for no good reason. There is no cure for gluten intolerance, but it can be managed with a gluten-free diet. Gluten intolerance can also lead to other conditions, including celiac disease and dermatitis herpetiformis.
A gluten-free diet is one in which all foods containing wheat, barley, or rye are eliminated. There are many substitutes available for people who wish to consume a gluten-free diet. In her new book, “Going Against the Grain,” Marlisa Brown discusses gluten intolerance and the various problems caused by dietary gluten. She explains how a list of ingredients is more important than a list of foods to avoid on a gluten-free diet. A growing number of people are learning that they can learn to live without gluten and still enjoy good food. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms of gluten intolerance, it is important to speak with your doctor. A gluten-free diet may be the right solution for you.
On the other hand, others believe that unless you’ve been specifically diagnosed with celiac disease, there’s no reason to go gluten-free. In fact, cutting out gluten can actually be harmful to your health. Gluten-free diets are low in fiber, B vitamins and iron, all of which are essential for good health. And without the right nutrients, your body could be more susceptible to disease. “You’re making a nutrient void,” says Keri Gans, R.D., author of the book The Small Change Diet and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). While she’s not saying that going gluten-free is wrong for everyone, it shouldn’t be your first plan of attack if you’re looking to improve your health. “If someone has celiac disease, they should avoid gluten,” Gans says. “But for the average person, there’s no need.”