Friday, February 13, 2015

Why are you Gluten Free?

So why are so many people gluten free these days?  Is it a trend, a fad diet or is it something much more complex.  What's the big deal?
To those who have sensitivities to food think it's a very big deal.  It seems like we hear about food allergies and intolerances and dietary related conditions more and more.  I remember when people looked at you cross when you said you couldn't have milk.  Honestly, some people still do.
So what is gluten free?  This is a dietary restriction done to avoid allergies, intolerances, and auto-immune triggers for diseases like Celiac's.  Most people who avoid gluten aren't doing it because it's trendy or because they want attention.  They are doing it because it's the only way they feel better, the only way they can stay healthy and thrive.
For those with Celiac's if they continue to consume foods that contain gluten it can actually kill them. Your intestines are filled with these finger-like structures called villi.  These tiny fingers help the intestines to absorb nutrients and past the rest on.  When a person who has Celiac's consumes gluten it stuns and in some cases completely destroys the villi which then causes malnutrition in the person.
While Celiac's may be the most well known reason for being gluten free there is quite a list of other conditions caused or affected by gluten consumption.  An article I read broke down gluten-related diseases/disorders into 3 categories; Celiac's Disease, wheat allergies, and immune-mediated gluten sensitivity.

Wheat allergies are easier to spot.  Symptoms include respiratory symptoms, coughing, rash or hives, gastrointestinal distress, and anaphylaxis.  Immune-mediated gluten sensitivity is then the body has a reaction to gluten that is neither allergic nor is it an auto-immune related issue like CD, Gluten Ataxia, or Dermatitis herpetiformis.
If you suspect you have any of the above conditions I would consult your physician.  If they share the same opinion they may order tests for you.  For instance part of diagnosing CD is an intestinal biopsy. While others may be tested using a standard allergy test, a blood test, or merely observing symptoms.
It's important to understand that a gluten free diet is not a diet fad and shouldn't be treated as one.  Many of the gluten related disorders can cause malabsortion of nutrients.  It can be difficult for someone on a gluten free diet to get adequate nutrients. Gluten free replacement foods like breads, pretzels, pasta, and desserts can often be higher in calories and fat because they need extra fat to bind them in the absence of gluten.