Does everyone benefit from a gluten-free diet?

In this day and age, most people have heard of gluten, but how many really know what it is? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley and is responsible for the elasticity and shape of certain foods such as bread. Gluten is found in many types of food, even in ones you wouldn't expect. Dr. David Schmidt, from Mountain Point Medical Center, explained gluten and what it does to the general population as well as celiacs.

What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine. When a person who has celiac disease ingests gluten, their immune system mounts an inflammatory response that damages the villi, the hair-like projections that line the small intestine which leads to poor nutrient absorption.

 To officially diagnose celiac sprue you need blood work and an endoscopy, but you must be on a diet that includes gluten to be diagnosed.  If you are on a gluten free diet you may feel better, but you may not necessarily have celiac sprue.  

Symptoms of celiac disease
- Digestive problems (bloating, pain, gas, diarrhea)
- Skin rash
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Musculoskeletal problems
- Weight loss
- Seizures
- Sores in mouth
- Missed menstrual periods/infertility

Does everyone benefit from going gluten free?
Although gluten-free diets are a popular health trend, going gluten free when you do not have celiac disease or a gluten allergy may not have much of an impact. Many processed gluten-free products have added sugar or fat mixed into the flour substitute to improve taste and texture.  If you decide to adopt a gluten-free diet, select foods that are naturally gluten-free (fruits, vegetables, lean meat, chicken, etc).

Instead of adopting a gluten-free diet for weight loss, speak with a dietician or nutritionist about better options for you. However, if you do have celiac disease, it is crucial to work with your doctor on diet plans that completely eliminate gluten. 

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