Gluten-Free Diet Isn’t Just Another Fad Diet

Many people think a gluten-free diet may be just another fad diet. However, going gluten-free can have a number of health benefits for people suffering from either celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. First off, what is a gluten-free diet? Simply put, a gluten-free diet is a diet that eliminates gluten. Gluten is a complex protein found in wheat and grains such as rye and barely. It is the component of dough that gives it its elasticity which helps it rise, gives it shape and texture.

A gluten-free diet is mainly used to treat people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that occurs when consuming gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. It is estimated that celiac disease affects every 1 in 100 people worldwide. In the U.S., 2.5 million people are undiagnosed with celiac disease and are at risk for long-term health complications.

Gluten is commonly found in bread. It allows the yeast in dough to rise.
Gluten is commonly found in bread. It allows the yeast in dough to rise.

In people with celiac disease, gluten causes inflammation in the small intestine. When people with celiac disease eat gluten, the immune system responds by attacking the small intestine. The small intestine has villi in the lining which are needed to absorb nutrients. When the immune system attacks the small intestine after consuming gluten the villi get damaged which does not allow for nutrients to be absorbed properly in the body.

People with celiac disease must be on a gluten-free diet to prevent symptoms and disease-related complications. Symptoms of celiac disease include fatigue, bone or joint pain, arthritis, osteoporosis, unexplained iron-deficiency anemia, depression or anxiety, tingling numbness in the hands and feet, seizures or migraines, missed menstrual periods, infertility or recurrent miscarriage, canker sores inside the mouth.

If left untreated, celiac disease can potentially cause serious health problems including type I diabetes, multiple sclerosis, dermatitis herpetiformis, anemia, osteoporosis, infertility and miscarriage, neurological conditions like epilepsy and migraines, short stature, and intestinal cancers.
Gluten-free diets are not only for people with celiac disease. While some believe this is debatable, there are in fact many people who don’t have celiac disease who complain of symptoms associated with eating gluten. This is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. It is estimated that 18 million Americans have gluten sensitivity.

People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity are unable to tolerate gluten and as a result, experience symptoms similar to those of celiac disease. These people do not have the same antibodies as those with celiac disease nor do they experience the same intestinal damage.

Symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity are similar to symptoms of celiac disease. The difference is that people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity also have non-GI symptoms, such as a headache, foggy mind, joint pain, and numbness in the legs, arms or fingers. Symptoms usually appear hours or days after eating gluten.

People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may benefit from a gluten-free diet. If you are just starting out, it’s important to consult a dietician to help you begin your gluten-free diet. Some gluten-free foods include beans, seeds, nuts, eggs, fruits, vegetables, most dairy products, meat, fish, poultry, quinoa, and soy. Some foods to avoid on a gluten-free diet include wheat, rye, barely. Make sure to avoid anything that isn’t labeled ‘gluten-free’ such as beer, bread, cereal, pastas, and French fries. Visit the Celiac Disease Foundation for a complete list of foods you can eat and should avoid on a gluten-free diet.

David Samadi, MD - Medical Contributor

View posts by David Samadi, MD - Medical Contributor
Dr. Samadi is a board-certified urologic oncologist trained in open and traditional and laparoscopic surgery and is an expert in robotic prostate surgery. He is chairman of urology, chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital and professor of urology at Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine. He is a medical correspondent for the Fox News Channel's Medical A-Team. Learn more at Visit Dr. Samadi's blog at Follow Dr. Samadi on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook.
Scroll to top