Should I Go Gluten-Free?

Is gluten bad for you? Is gluten-free healthier? In the past few years, gluten-free diets and products have become more prevalent than ever. With rumors of increased energy and concentration and cures to digestion issues - it's hard not to think that you too may benefit from a gluten-free diet. As a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, I work with clients to help them lose weight and live a healthier life. We work together to identify barriers and solutions throughout their weight loss journey. This includes sifting through the many nutrition myths and messages set forth by the public.

I also help people reach their health and fitness goals as a Certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor. For me, it's a personal win to see my patients make healthy choices because they can, not because they have to. I love being able to help people integrate nutrition, fitness, and wellness to create lifestyle changes that last.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is actually a type of protein that is found in specific grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. It is found in pastas, breads, pastries, cereals, beer, and many other processed foods. Gluten is harmless except to those diagnosed with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

What's the Difference?

Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder, meaning even just the smallest tidbit of gluten can cause havoc on the intestines. When the body begins to attack itself, damage is done to the intestine, leading to impaired nutrient absorption and gastrointestinal distress. This might be made apparent through symptoms like bloating, gas, diarrhea, and weight loss or gain. If not treated, celiac disease can result in even more disorders such as osteoporosis, anemia, and neurological issues. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity seems to be much more prevalent than celiac disease, 'affecting an estimated 18 million Americans,' according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. This too also involves an autoimmune response to gluten; however no damaging antibodies are produced. While someone with this sensitivity may experience symptoms similar to celiac, they will suffer from the same damage of the intestinal wall, nutrient absorption, or other long term problems.

What's Right for Me?

If you suspect you have celiac or gluten sensitivity, reach out to your primary care physician to get tested before going gluten-free. If you decide to go gluten-free, then later get tested, they will be unable to determine if your diet is causing the issues. If you are considering gluten-free for other health reasons, keep in mind that gluten is found in many foods. Restricting your diet may cause you to miss out on essential B vitamins. Aim to incorporate a variety of all food groups in your diet: vegetables, fruits, protein, dairy, and grains. If you do find that you need to be gluten-free, find a registered dietitian nutritionist to help you create a plan to keep you healthy and happy.

More information at www.eatright.org.