Going gluten-free for health reasons

Going gluten-free is becoming more popular these days, but celiac disease may not be the only reason why.
Saturday, August 02, 2014
Going gluten-free is becoming more popular these days, but celiac disease may not be the only reason why.

These days, whole supermarket aisles are devoted to products that are gluten-free. Easy access to these foods is a blessing for the 2 million Americans who struggle with celiac disease and can't tolerate gluten. But as the gluten-free movement is gaining followers for other health reasons.

For Paul Daniel, going gluten-free has been a key ingredient to improving his health.

"When I lay down at night I'd have asthma symptoms, or I would have repeated migraines and get ear infections repeatedly," said Daniel.

Paul suffers food allergies. He's sliced pizza and pasta from his diet, and is feeling a lot better.

"I eat a lot more rice and Indian dishes now," said Daniel.

People with wheat allergies and especially celiac disease cannot tolerate the protein gluten because it damages parts of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. A person can become malnourished, no matter how much food they eat. This can mean a lot of stomach pains.

"We're seeing more and more people come to us going gluten-free not because they have been diagnosed with celiac but they are presenting with other medical conditions, joint pain, eczema, unexplained pain," said Amanda S. Holiday, registered dietician.

But in the meantime gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean eliminating favorite foods. Pizza is still game - one recipe we found is made from potato tapioca millet and cornstarch.

"There are more grains that are gluten-free than those that have gluten. The typical American diet doesn't know about them," said Holiday.

So even though Paul is cutting out gluten, he's opening up opportunities to try new tastes.

Some dietitians warn that "gluten-free" products are made with refined, unenriched grains and starches, which contain plenty of calories but very few vitamins or minerals. Some studies have found that gluten-free diets can be seriously nutrient-deficient - low in fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, vitamin b12, phosphorus and zinc.
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