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Is Gluten Free Food Better For You?

Over the last 10 years, there has been an explosion of gluten-free food options at most grocery stores. This has been a boon to individuals with celiac disease, but also a fad for many healthy people. Seriously though, is gluten-free healthy?


Background on the Gluten-Free Craze

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by sensitivity to gluten, which is a protein found in certain grains (wheat, barley, rye, and others).The most common symptoms include abdominal pain and distension, chronic diarrhea, and poor growth or weight loss. To properly diagnose celiac disease, we generally start with blood testing for certain autoimmune antibodies seen in celiac disease. If those are abnormal, children need to see a pediatric gastroenterologist (GI) for further testing. Children and adults who have celiac disease must completely avoid gluten for the rest of their lives to remain healthy.

There are also a number of people with normal test results who believe that gluten makes them feel ill (non-celiac gluten sensitivity). There is no test to diagnose this non-celiac gluten sensitivity. In fact, research trials have shown that most people who believe they are gluten sensitive do not have symptoms when exposed to gluten, as long as they don't know they were exposed. Others are actually sensitive to certain carbohydrates ("FODMAPs") that are present in many foods, including grains. These individuals feel better when they go gluten-free, but only because they are also avoiding other carbohydrates that are actually making them feel ill. There does seem to be a percentage of people who do reliably have symptoms with gluten, despite normal test results, but this seems to be quite uncommon.

Despite the fact that few people are truly gluten sensitive, many believe that gluten is inherently bad and gluten-free foods are healthier for us. This is what led to the proliferation of gluten free foods This study reinforces that this isn't true. If anything, gluten-free foods are more likely to be high sugar foods, which come with their own set of problems. And if your child doesn't have celiac disease, there will likely be no benefit to going gluten free.

If your child has no symptoms, there is no need to avoid gluten. If your child has celiac disease, you know the importance of staying gluten-free. Be sure to read labels and to avoid gluten-free products high in sugar.

If your child is having symptoms that you suspect may be due to celiac disease - please call us for an appointment. It is important for children with true celiac disease to be properly diagnosed before committing to a lifetime of avoiding gluten. Going gluten-free prematurely can actually complicate celiac testing.

Posted: 7/31/2018 7:03:05 AM by Paul Matz | with 0 comments

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