Going “Gluten Free”: Pros And Cons

As someone who has suffered from asthma and allergies since childhood, from time to time I was put on special dietary restrictions to see if eliminating certain foods improved my condition.At one time I was to eliminate wheat from my diet, another time dairy. Neither proved to have much effect one way or the other, so those restrictions in diet fell by the wayside. Back then, no one had ever heard of gluten or gluten-free products. The concept of going gluten free was introduced to me by a friend who’s son has autism and was recommended by his physician to eliminate gluten from his diet. So far, there seems to be some improvement in his particular case.

In today’s marketplace, it’s hard not to notice the sudden increase in the number of gluten free products available. Take a look at your own pantry and you’ll most likely find at least a few products labeled “gluten free”. So, what’s with everyone suddenly becoming aware of gluten? And what exactly is gluten? Why is everyone suddenly becoming gluten free ? These are some questions I wondered myself, which prompted me to do the research for this article.

Gluten is a protein that gives dough it’s elastic quality, and can be found in wheat, rye, and barley. Obvious products containing gluten include food items such as breads, pastas, cakes, and cereals. However, gluten can also be found in the less obvious forms of emulsifiers and thickeners for a variety of different food products. Gluten can also be found in such products as soy sauces, salad dressings, beer, whiskey, and vinegar.

Over the past several years, it has been thought that sensitivity or allergies to gluten can be attributed to symptoms such as diarrhea, weight loss, nutritional deficiencies, nausea, muscle cramping, joint/bone pain, skin rashes, irritability, depression/anxiety, and fatigue. There have also been claims that by eliminating gluten from the diet, it can improve conditions such as autism , Type 1 diabetes, as well as other conditions. However, other studies feel that for most people lacking certain medical conditions, there is really not much benefit in “going gluten free”, and feel that it may produce unwanted results and possible nutritional deficiencies in otherwise healthy people.

While researching this article, I found many credible, yet conflicting reports on whether or not a gluten free diet can really improve autism or other medical conditions. From my conclusion, there seems to still be a lot of debate as to whether or not going gluten free is an answer for these particular medical conditions. If you or someone you know suffers from autism, or Type 1 diabetes, discuss the option of going gluten free with your/their physician and get their professional opinion.

One group of people who can definitely benefit from eliminating gluten in their diets , are those who suffer from Celiac disease.It is estimated that 3 million Americans have Celiac disease, with only 10% being properly diagnosed. Celiac disease is a condition that causes chronic intestinal problems and malnutrition. It is thought that gluten found in wheat, barley and rye are responsible for this distress.

People suffering from Celiac disease carry two genes that cause their small intestines to react to incoming gluten as an enemy invader as opposed to a nutrient. This then causes the body’s immune system to react and treat gluten as a threat. This autoimmune disease can develop at any age, and numbers of people with Celiac disease seem to be on the rise.

If you feel you need to seek medical attention for any of these symptoms, please note that in order to be properly diagnosed, you must still be consuming gluten before and during the time of testing to get an accurate result. If you take it upon yourself before testing and begin going gluten free , your test results will not be accurate. The increasing number of people sensitive to gluten has resulted in the food industry coming out with 1,182 new gluten free products in the year 2008 alone. Those numbers of new products available continue to rise with each passing year, which is good news for those going “gluten free”.

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