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.
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 forms antibodies that attack the lining of the small intestine. The antibodies damage the villi, the hair-like projections that line the small intestine, and cause inflammation, 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
- Tingling sensation in legs
- Sores in mouth
- Missed menstrual periods
Does everyone benefit from going gluten free?
Although gluten-free diets are a popular health and weight loss trend, going gluten free when you do not have celiac disease or a gluten allergy may not have much of an impact, or even may cause negative effects, on your overall health. There is no scientific evidence that shows that eliminating gluten from your diet promotes weight loss or improves health. In fact, many gluten-free products have added sugar or fat mixed into the flour substitute to improve taste and texture.
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.