Gluten Free Facts


Behind the food trend that has everyone talking

It’s all the rage. Everywhere you go, you see “gluten-free” options, and you probably know at least a handful of people that have gone gluten free. But what’s all the stink about? Get the dish behind the craze and learn what you should know before you sign up — or opt out.

What is gluten?
A protein composite found in wheat, rye and barley. Foods that commonly contain gluten include pasta, bread, crackers, baked goods, soy sauce, cereals and granola. Pretty much everything we all love.

Who should consider going gluten free?
While gluten isn’t a problem for the most people, it is for people with celiac disease, a digestive and autoimmune disorder in which gluten damages the small intestine. About one percent of the population suffers from this, according to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

For people with celiac disease, the inflammatory response in the small intestines can be extremely destructive, even life-threatening. So going gluten free isn’t just an option. It’s a necessity.

People with gluten intolerance — a sensitivity to gluten that can cause symptoms ranging from bloating to depression — should also cut gluten. But we all know it’s hard to give up what you love. So because gluten intolerance doesn’t damage the small intestine, some people risk the short-term effects. Because who wouldn’t suffer for a plate of pasta every now and then?

Runny nose? Itchy legs? Gluten might be to blame. Try going gluten free for two weeks to see if it helps. If so, you might want to switch permanently.

Can a gluten-free diet help you lose weight?
You’d think so, right? But even though celebrities are quick to hop on this popular bandwagon, it’s not intended for weight loss. In fact, gluten-free foods aren’t necessarily the healthiest since manufacturers substitute sugar and fat for gluten. They’re also not always high on the nutrient scale.

What should you be careful of if you cut gluten?
One word: nutrition. Visit a dietician. Consider taking a multivitamin. OK, maybe three more words: don’t self-diagnose. Before you cut gluten, see your doctor, who can run tests to confirm (or rule out) celiac disease.