Is gluten-free just another health buzzword or is it an important consideration for your diet? Anna Longacre, MD, a board-certified gastroenterologist with Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates, gets to the bottom of gluten for us.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a term for a variety of proteins found naturally in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. These proteins help foods maintain their shape.
Who actually needs to be eating a gluten-free diet?
For individuals with celiac disease—an autoimmune condition in which the ingestion of gluten leads to damage of the small intestine—eating a gluten-free diet is essential to manage digestive symptoms and avoid long-term complications.
Celiac disease often goes undiagnosed and is actually quite common.
Individuals with gluten sensitivity can experience a variety of symptoms, including bloating, diarrhea, chronic fatigue, “brain fog” and depression. If you are having symptoms, it’s important to talk with a gastroenterologist about being tested.
How do I determine if I should eliminate gluten?
Some individuals feel better on a gluten-free diet and choose to eliminate gluten from their diet purely for this reason. Only your physician can order the appropriate screening and diagnostic testing to see if a gluten-free diet is needed for you.
Can eliminating gluten help me lose weight?
For some individuals, switching to a gluten-free diet removes from the menu many of the food choices that make weight loss challenging—specifically processed foods and higher carbohydrate foods. In this regard, a gluten-free diet may promote weight loss. That said, not all individuals, particularly those with celiac disease, lose weight when they go gluten-free.
Which foods usually contain gluten?
Gluten most often appears in foods containing wheat, barley and rye. Other foods containing gluten include malt, brewer’s yeast and unprocessed wheat starch.
Many common foods contain gluten—foods such as pastas, breads, cereals, baked goods, crackers, beer and even many sauces. Fortunately, food labeling now includes the gluten-free designation, assuring consumers that gluten is absent from the product or has been processed to remove the gluten.