Gluten Free Diet: Fact or Fad - PIH Health - Whittier, CA

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Published on September 25, 2014

Gluten Free Diet: Fact or Fad?

Gluten Free Diet: Fact or Fad?

Gluten Free Diet: Fact or Fad?

It seems like a new commercial is running for a new gluten free food every day.  Many people who had never heard of gluten a few years ago are now following a gluten free diet.  What’s the craze all about?  Does gluten make you fat?  Is it bad for your health?  Do you need to eat gluten free?

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and commercial oats.  It was discovered by Buddhist Monks in the 7th century and it’s a source of protein consumed worldwide.

Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity

People with celiac disease must eat a gluten free diet because there is no treatment for celiac.  Even a small amount of gluten leads to an autoimmune response that causes damage to the lining of the intestines and may result in diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating and fatigue.  The damage to the intestines makes it harder for the body to absorb nutrients and can cause weight loss. 

Some people test negative for celiac disease, but are sensitive to gluten.  Gluten sensitivity can cause the same symptoms as celiac disease so a gluten free diet should be followed.

Foods that contain gluten

Any of the following foods that contain wheat, oats or barley will also have gluten:

  • Cereal
  • Bread
  • Barley
  • Pasta
  • Sauces, marinades and gravies
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Salad dressings
  • Battered foods

Ingredients on food labels that indicate gluten

  • Bran
  • Bulgur
  • Couscous
  • Durum
  • Graham flour
  • Spelt
  • Wheat (flour, starch, bran, germ, grass)
  • Kamut
  • Rye flour
  • Triticale
  • Modified food starch

Gluten free for weight loss

Many people think that following a gluten free diet will help them lose weight.  According to PIH Health clinical dietitian, Danielle Halewijn, that is not true.  Whole grains, including wheat are a very important part of a healthy diet for people without celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.  Some gluten free foods have more sugar and less fiber, which will make it harder to lose weight.  For instance, an Oreo cookie has 70 calories and its gluten free equivalent has 210 calories.

When is gluten free a fad?

A gluten free diet is a fad when it is used for any of the following reasons:

  • Weight loss
  • Cleansing the body of “toxins”
  • Enhanced performance in athletic endeavors
  • Because celebrities are doing it

If you suffer from diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating or fatigue after eating foods that contain gluten, talk to your doctor about testing for celiac disease.  If you don’t have a doctor, choose a PIH Health Family Medicine physician.

The information in Healthy Living Online is for educational purposes only.  It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  The reader should always consult his or her healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for their own situation, or if they have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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