Summary of The Truth About Gluten

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The Consumer Reports in January of this year published an article titled, The Truth About Gluten. The point of this blog post is to clarify comments in this article and to offer insight on the gluten-free dilemmas that most patients have. The big question from most patients is “How do I go gluten-free?” and/or “How come I have been on this gluten-free path and I have not felt better gut-wise?” There are answers for patients.

First and foremost, what does it mean to go gluten-free?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. If a person is celiac (an autoimmune condition in which gluten causes potentially life-threatening intestinal damage) they are ultimately sensitive to gluten. Less than 7 percent of the population has celiac disease. According to the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 63 percent of those surveyed thought following a gluten-free diet would improve their physical or mental health. About a third said that they buy gluten-free products or try to avoid gluten. Quite the contrary there is very little research as to the benefits of going gluten-free.Actually, there are fewer vitamins and minerals in gluten-free products; so those who consume these products on a frequent basis typically become nutrient deficient. Many gluten-free products are not enriched or fortified with nutrients such as folic acid and iron. When you eat more gluten-free products you are consuming more sugar and processed fats as they are added in as substitutes. The benefits of gluten have been suggested in effecting triglyceride levels and controlling blood pressure. The fructan starches in wheat support healthy bacteria in your digestive system, which in turn may reduce inflammation and promote a healthy gut. Consumer Reports reference a small study of a group of patients on a gluten-free diet who had their gut flora evaluated. The finding was after only one month, less healthy bacteria was found in the gut.Remember your gut is made up of bad guys and good guys. These “guys” or microbes, control the symbiotic relationship to keep inflammation under control, process food effectively, and most importantly maintain good immunity within your digestive system. An imbalance of good gut function can lead to autoimmune dysfunction. It is highly unlikely you will lose weight on a gluten-free diet. If anything, you will gain weight due to the added sugars and starches. Also, gluten-free is not friendly to the pocketbook. Companies producing gluten-free products are making a mint off people trying to go on an all gluten-free diet. If you think you are gluten sensitive then by all means get tested for the antibodies (blood work) associated with gluten sensitivity. To avoid the cost of going gluten-free stick to what is fresh in the grocery store and avoid pre-packaged gluten-free items.Here are the stats on how gluten-free has penetrated the market… since 2012, sales have risen 63 percent for gluten-free products; 4,599 products were on the market for last year. The #1 gluten-free snack are potato chips. For pets, there is a flood of gluten-free products as well as in our beauty products. Remember, just because it is gluten-free, it does not mean it is necessarily better. In actuality, it might be worse for your gut.The last page of the Consumer Reports article has two very helpful lists; Gluten-Free Foods (with No Rice) That Passed Our Taste Test and Other Products Worth Trying. The biggest complaint I hear from patients is “Gluten-free is like eating cardboard.” Hopefully this list will help sift out the cardboard options and will give you some alternatives should you decide to eat gluten-free products.

Will a gluten-free diet really make you healthier?

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