All About Gluten: Your Questions Answered

Over the past few years, gluten-free diets have become extremely popular, but do you know what the benefits and purpose of following a gluten-free lifestyle are?

What is the purpose of a gluten-free diet?

A gluten-free diet is used to treat celiac disease and gluten intolerance. Gluten causes inflammation in the small intestines of people with celiac disease. Following a gluten-free diet helps people with celiac disease control their signs and symptoms and prevent complications.  Some of the most common symptoms of Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance are weight loss or weight gain, nutritional deficiencies, fat in stools, cramps and numbness, gastro-intestinal problems, and overall decline in dental health.

What does it mean to be gluten-free?

The diet must exclude all gluten proteins.  One of the easiest ways to keep this in mind is to think of B-R-O-W when reading labels.  If the product contains barley, rye, oats or wheat, it contains gluten.  This also means avoiding a majority of processed foods in the market as well since most include binding agents containing gluten as well.

While it may seem challenging and frustrating at first, with a little patience and creativity, you can help remake your favorite meals into gluten-free versions that everyone can enjoy!

What can you eat if you follow a gluten-free diet?

The great news is that a lot of foods are naturally gluten-free.  Fruits, vegetables, beans and legumes, most dairy products and meats are gluten-free.  In addition to this cornmeal, quinoa, tapioca, rice, soy, and flax are also gluten-free.  There are a variety of gluten-free flours available and it simply depends on preference, so don’t be afraid to try out a few before you find one you like!  There are also a lot of gluten-free mixes and products in the supermarket, just make sure to look for the gluten-free label.

Are there any health concerns of following a gluten-free diet?

Since a majority of the pastas and flours on the shelves are enriched with essential vitamins and minerals, it is important to make sure that you are getting adequate amounts of iron, Niacin, Thiamin, and Folate in your diet.

Will a gluten-free diet help you lose weight?

Recent research studies published in the September 2012 issue of the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics report that there is no evidence to support a gluten-free diet will promote weight loss in a healthy individual.  In normal individuals who do not have Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance, consuming products containing gluten in moderation actually help support heart, intestinal, and immune system functions.  A majority of the gluten-free products on the shelves actually contain more fats and sugars than the original gluten versions, so those individuals who rely on a gluten-free diet without any exercise, actually end up gaining weight as a result.

What is the difference between gluten intolerance, wheat allergy and Celiac Disease?

Gluten intolerance is less severe than Celiac Disease as it is not immune mediated.  The symptoms are not as severe and do not cause permanent damage like those in Celiac patients do.  Abdominal pain, distress, and diarrhea are common.  Wheat allergies are one of the top 8 allergies in the country at the moment.  Like any other food allergy, traditional symptoms are swelling and inflammation of the skin, lungs, and mouth.  Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition in which the body starts attacking its own tissue as a response to consuming gluten.  Celiac patients are at a higher risk for malnutrition due to this and usually have a more intensive treatment than those who suffer from wheat allergy or gluten intolerance.  Unlike wheat allergy or gluten intolerance, Celiac Disease is inherited.

Does Gluten Have An Impact On Children?

As mentioned earlier, gluten is beneficial to those who are healthy and do not suffer from a gluten allergy or Celiac Disease.  Unfortunately, the only way to know if your child has developed an allergy or has Celiac Disease is to give them gluten products and pay close attention to how their body reacts after.  Since gluten is known to be a hormone disruptor, recent studies have now linked gluten sensitivity to abnormalities in the endocrine system, especially the thyroid.  The growth hormone is essential to help assist in the development and growth in children.  Studies have shown that once children adopted a gluten-free diet, their growth started to progress normally again.  One of the latest research efforts is in relation to the impact a gluten-free diet has on children with Autism.  A new study has shown that the lack of nutrient absorption from Celiac Disease can have a significant impact on the symptoms of Autism.  Their malabsorption syndrome, which is associated with central nervous system dysfunction, has suggested that in some contexts, nutritional deficiency may be a determinant of developmental delay. It is recommended that all children with neurodevelopmental problems be checked for nutritional deficiencies and malabsorption syndromes.

Where Can I Learn More About Gluten-Free Living?

The Ultimate Guide to Gluten-Free Living is an amazing resource that provides more in depth information on all of the topics we discussed.

Adams Gluten Free Surprise: Helping Others Understand Gluten Free by Debbie Simpson is a great book that helps share information about Gluten-Free living from a child’s perspective to help them better understand.

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is a comprehensive site that not only discusses the latest developments and research pertaining to gluten, but it also has an abundance of recipes and cooking tips as well as a message board to help others suffering from a gluten allergy or Celiac Disease so that they can share their stories.

Cooking for Isaiah is a great Gluten-Free cookbook created by a mother whose son was diagnosed with gluten and dairy intolerances.  The recipes are not only delicious but also easy to make!

Gloriously Gluten-Free is a cookbook that takes you around the world, so if you are looking for a gluten free guide to all cuisines from Asian, Italian, and Spanish, then this is the cookbook for you!

  1. Staff, Mayo Clinic. “Gluten-free Diet: What’s Allowed, What’s Not.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 20 Dec. 2011. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.
  2. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Volume 112, Issue 9 , Pages 1330-1333, September 2012
  3. “What Is Celiac Disease?” American Celiac Disease Alliance Celiac Disease Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Mar. 2013.
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  5. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2010 Oct;51(4):418-24.