Is gluten-free diet healthy for everyone? Here's what dietitian says

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An image of gluten containing foods. — Unsplash/File
An image of gluten containing foods. — Unsplash/File

In recent years, the naturally occurring protein contained in some grains, called gluten, has unintentionally gained a bad reputation in the nutrition industry promoting a diet free of this nutrient.

The selection of gluten-free foods on grocery store shelves and restaurant menus is constantly growing, and a growing number of people— celebrities, athletes, and perhaps even your relatives — are choosing to follow gluten-free diets because they are thought to be healthier or the solution to a number of ailments, including skin conditions, gastrointestinal disorders, and trouble controlling weight.

Any food or food products that contain gluten, a wheat protein, must be avoided when following a gluten-free diet.

Some foods, such as soy sauce, flour, beer, pastries, and some seasoned rice mixes, snack foods, and soup mixes, contain gluten, as do other grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye, according to Health.

It is medically required for those with Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder brought on by gluten, to follow a gluten-free diet. The only known treatment for celiac disease is to follow a gluten-free diet, which involves cutting out all sources of gluten.

Meal plans should be meticulously designed, preferably by a doctor, even for those following a gluten-free diet out of necessity to prevent nutritional deficits.

“There has been some research that shows a gluten-free diet may help lower thyroid antibody levels,” said Alyssa Pacheco, RD. “However, the results have been inconclusive, so it’s not recommended for everyone with this condition.”

Another ailment where avoiding gluten-containing foods may help some people with symptoms is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). A 2016 small study discovered that for some individuals, a six-week gluten-free diet could lessen the intensity of their IBS.

IBS sufferers are sensitive to short-chain carbohydrates known as FODMAPs (fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols), which are poorly absorbed by the intestines and cause digestive irritation. As a result, gluten may not be the primary cause of symptoms for these individuals.

Diets free of gluten are also expensive. According to research, gluten-free bread and bakery goods cost roughly 267% more than gluten-containing breads, and gluten-free cereals can cost up to 205% more than regular cereals.