What to Know Before Going Gluten-Free

First, it was fat. Then sugar. Now, gluten claims a top spot on the list of dietary villains.

People with a condition called celiac disease can’t digest this protein, found in wheat, barley and rye. For them, doctors order a gluten-free diet. For everyone else, cutting gluten may actually hurt their diets.

The Risks of Giving Up Gluten
Only about 1 percent of the population has celiac disease, but about 1.6 million Americans follow a gluten-free diet. 

Many people put themselves on the plan without visiting a doctor. Some hope to ease irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, diabetes, and other conditions. Others simply aim to lose weight.

However, no evidence links forgoing gluten to weight loss. Plus, eliminating such a common ingredient may deprive you of nutrients. In fact, about 20 to 38 percent of people with celiac disease are deficient in folate, vitamin A, calcium and other vitamins and minerals. Such shortfalls put many people — especially children — at risk for health problems.

With or Without Wheat
If you have symptoms of celiac disease — such as gas or abdominal pain, chronic diarrhea, skin rash and tingling hands and feet — see your doctor. And keep eating gluten in the meantime. Tests can detect celiac disease only if you have gluten in your system.

If your doctor advises a gluten-free diet, a dietitian can help you develop a nutritious, balanced plan, including the following recommendations:
Trying other whole grains. For example, quinoa, brown or wild rice, millet and kasha    don’t contain gluten.
Loading up on fruits and veggies. Healthy produce is naturally gluten-free.
Reading labels. New rules mean foods marked gluten-free must undergo strict          testing. 

Get Help for Digestive Problems
If you are having digestive problems, such as frequent abdominal pain, nausea, or heartburn, Columbus Regional Health Gastroenterology can help. They offer the latest in GI diagnosis and treatment. 

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