(11/19/12) - "Gluten" is one of the hottest diet buzzwords right now. A lot of people are going gluten free, but should they be?
There are legitimate medical reasons some people need to go off gluten, but some people are doing it in hopes of losing weight, among other things.
It's estimated that up to 10 percent of the population has some sort of gluten sensitivity. The term "Gluten Free" is showing up on everything you can imagine. It seems it is picking up where the whole "carb-free" diet explosion left off. Going gluten free is not the same thing - by a long shot!
Ever wonder what this stuff is in the first place? Simple explanation: it is a protein that comes from grains like wheat, barley and rye. In people with celiac disease or who are considered gluten intolerant, the body sends out an autoimmune response, when gluten gets in the system. That triggers a lot of physical, and even mental, misery.
All you have to do is look at how many foods are made specifically without Gluten to understand how many foods it is in. Cookies, cakes, breads, pastas, even salad dressings. We eat a lot of it, without even knowing it.
"Gluten, if you are not properly digesting it, causes all sorts of inflammation in the body. Your body looks at it and says, 'you know what, this isn't healthy for me', and will start attacking it," says Marjie Andrejciw.
Marjie knows all about it. Along with having an autoimmune disorder, called Hashimoto's, she is gluten intolerant and has suffered tremendously because of it.
"By taking that out of my diet, my health has improved dramatically. Wasn't perfect at first. I looked a lot younger, had more energy, less moody, I didn't have that bloating in my stomach. I didn't have that brain fog that I had been suffering and my joint pain went way down."
Steve Edwards, is not officially diagnosed 'gluten intolerant". He does not have Celiac disease, the reason the gluten free diet was created in the first place.
Still, Edwards, a Vietnam vet, says going gluten free has helped turn his diabetes around. "I'm 64 years old and you said I looked a lot younger than that. I feel great. "
Dr. Marcy Klein, of McLaren Medical Center, is not surprised by either Marjie or Steve's gluten-free success stories, "there are a lot of people who feel better than they ever have, just from cutting out the gluten."
In fact, Klein says there are probably a lot of people who have either Celiac's disease or a gluten intolerance who go undiagnosed, often for years. "A lot of times it's misdiagnosed. There is about 85 percent of people that have the disease that are misdiagnosed with something else. "
With Celiac disease, people often have very uncomfortable stomach symptoms, but, Dr. Klein says, "not always, actually. The symptoms that are typical are bloating gas constipation, diarrhea , or both. If you see anemia and you treat it and it's not going away, it is one of the best signs of someone having that problem. "
So it can be tricky to diagnose. The body does not absorb all of the nutrients it should when it goes into gluten attack mode, so it can cause a lot of other symptoms, like fatigue, depression, joint pain. Those are also symptoms of other diseases and disorders.
What if you cut gluten and you don't have a true intolerance?
"It doesn't hurt you," Klein says. "Whether you have Celiac disease or not, gluten is actually something we don't like, our bodies don't like gluten. "
Klein has one warning: if you are going gluten free because you are hearing so much about the gluten free "diet", and think you might lose weight. "Some people can actually gain weight from it because the intestine is able to absorb more nutrients once it's healed, people can gain weight from the actual absorption."
Meanwhile, Marjie, who holds a masters degree in holistic nutrition, and also owns Marjie's Gluten and Dairy Free Pantry in Fenton, says, reading "Gluten Free" on a label does not guarantee weight loss. It does not guarantee the product is healthy, either.
"If we are really trying to go gluten free. We go deeper and the reason we go deeper is I have found products that say they're gluten free, but they will have something in them like "malted barley" and that has gluten in it, " Marjie says.
The nutritional counselor, says the fewer ingredients on the label, the better, no matter what your diagnosis is. "I think the average American who eats a lot of refined foods will benefit from this type of diet, not so much because of a gluten intolerance but because of taking the processed and refined sugars and carbohydrates out of their diet. So, even if they did a reduction in those kinds of foods, they would feel better."
Dr. Klein adds, "it's not a diet. It's a way of life, it's a lifestyle change to improve your health."
If you think you might be gluten intolerant, Klein suggests taking it out of your diet and seeing if you feel better.
There is also a way to screen for Celiac disease. It is on the rise and, according to statistics, one in 100 people has it. Dr. Klein says anyone with an autoimmune disease already, may also test positive, or at the very least be gluten intolerant.
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