Will “gluten-free” work for me?

Lisa Morrone, PT

Lisa Morrone is a physical therapist, professor, speaker, and author.

By: Lisa Morrone, PT

Wow, for such a small protein, gluten has really made it to the big time—with a number of trademarked, “G-Free” dietary products to show for itself! And all a diet plan needs to capture the attention of the masses is to gain a few celebrity endorsements. Enter Oprah and Gwyneth Paltrow.

Gluten, which is found in wheat, rye and barley, can be a friend or a foe; it all depends on your immune system. Now if you happen to suffer from the autoimmune, gluten-irritable, celiac disease (1% of the population) or have a sensitivity to gluten (10% of the population), then all the “G-Free” cookbooks, “G-Free” entrée selections on restaurant menus, and dozens of new “G-Free” products available at the supermarket are a welcomed addition.

But what if you don’t suffer from the gluten-irritant symptoms of diarrhea, stomach pain, gas, and/or bloating? Does this G-Free diet hold any health benefits for you? The answer, according to most gastroenterologists and nutritionists, is “No.” In fact, many who eat a strict gluten free diet are at risk for vitamin deficiencies, in particular, vitamins B and D.

However, if you’ve long had a love-hate relationship with food (love to eat it, hate to digest it) then you may need to visit your doctor to look into this matter further. The diagnosis of celiac disease requires a blood test, which if positive, is often followed by a small intestinal biopsy.

Gluten sensitivity, on the other hand is more subjective. To prove its existence (to yourself) you must eliminate all gluten and then see how your belly feels. The difference, I am told, is like night and day. In one week’s time you will know whether or not this is a diet you need to follow closely throughout your life.

So the bottom line is that eating “G-Free” is a necessary way of life for some 11% of the population, but for the rest of us…please pass the pasta (whole grain, of course!).

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