Magazine articles, news programs, and everyday conversations all frequently feature one topic: going gluten-free. While medical conditions like celiac disease and gluten allergies have long necessitated a gluten-free lifestyle, electing to go gluten-free has recently become a widespread health phenomenon.
What is the truth behind the hype? Is following a gluten-free diet really a healthier way to live? What should someone do if he or she believes he or she wants to follow a gluten-free diet?
Separating Truth from Hype: Popular diets like the Paleo diet and books like William H. Davis’s ‘Wheat Belly’ have helped to popularize the gluten-free craze. The experts behind these trends make arguments that human beings are not designed to digest modern day wheat and gluten-containing products. It is difficult to scientifically prove this, but what has been shown is that gluten is one of the more difficult foods to digest, possibly leading to internal inflammation.
Additionally, many processed foods contain gluten. By cutting out gluten, people often cut out much of the unhealthy, chemical laden processed food that is dominant in American diets. Because of this, even people with no difficulty digesting gluten may inadvertently benefit from a gluten-free diet, further perpetuating the idea that gluten-free living is a superior diet.
Deciding to Go Gluten-free: For people considering adopting a gluten-free diet, there are several factors to consider. First and foremost, if someone suspects she may have celiac disease, she should NOT alter her diet before first seeing a doctor. In order to accurately diagnose this autoimmune condition, someone must be consuming gluten to producing the telltale gluten antibodies. If celiac disease is ruled out or not a concern, people can consider trying an elimination diet and keeping a food journal to see if removing gluten results in improved health.
Regardless of reasons for going gluten-free, it is important to try the diet in a healthy way. Going gluten-free can be a beneficial way for many people to eat. Replacing gluten-containing foods with processed gluten-free foods will not result in health improvements, unless there is a medical diagnosis underlying the need to be gluten-free. People should opt for a balanced, fresh, produce rich diet for optimal results.