Celiac disease may not be the only reason to go gluten free

These days, whole supermarket aisles are devoted to products that are gluten free.

Easy access to these foods is a blessing for the two million Americans who struggle with celiac disease and can't tolerate gluten.

But we're finding out, the gluten free movement is gaining followers for other health reasons.

For Paul Daniel, going gluten-free has been a key ingredient to improving his health.

"When I lay down at night I'd have asthma symptoms,” Paul Daniel said, “or I would have repeated migraines and get ear infections repeatedly."

Paul suffers from food allergies. But he's sliced pizza and pasta from his diet and is feeling a lot better.

"I eat a lot more rice and Indian dishes now," he added.

People with wheat allergies and especially celiac disease cannot tolerate the protein gluten, that's because it damages parts of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.
A person can become malnourished, no matter how much food they eat. This can mean a lot of stomach pains.

"We're seeing more and more people come to us going gluten-free not because they have been diagnosed with celiac but they are presenting with other medical conditions like joint pain, eczema, unexplained pain,” Dr. Amanda S. Holiday, registered dietitian at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said.

But in the meantime gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean eliminating favorite foods. Pizza is still game, and one recipe we found is made from potato tapioca millet and cornstarch.

"There are more grains that are gluten-free than those that have gluten,” Holiday added. “The typical American diet doesn't know about them."

So even though Paul is cutting out gluten, he's opening up opportunities to try new tastes.

Some dietitians warn that "gluten-free" products are made with refined, unenriched grains and starches, which contain plenty of calories but very few vitamins or minerals.

Some studies have found that gluten-free diets can be seriously nutrient-deficient.

RESEARCH SUMMARY

BACKGROUND: Celiac disease is a disease that affects the digestive system. It damages the small intestine, and causes the nutrients in food to not get absorbed. People who are diagnosed with celiac disease are not supposed to consume gluten. Becoming gluten-free is the only way to treat this disease. Gluten is a protein found in foods that are made up of wheat, barley, or rye. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten their immune system reacts by hurting the villi, which are the tiny projections along the walls of the small intestine. Villi are what absorb the nutrients of the food, so if they are damaged, the body can't absorb the nutrients and becomes malnourished. Over 2 million people in the United States are diagnosed with this disease, which means about 1 in every 133 people have it.
(Source: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/DDISEASES/PUBS/CELIAC/)

SYMPTOMS OF CELIAC DISEASE:
" Abdominal pain
" Chronic diarrhea
" Vomiting
" Constipation
" Pale, foul-smelling, or fatty stool
" Loss of weight
" (Source: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/DDISEASES/PUBS/CELIAC/)

GOING GLUTEN-FREE WITHOUT CELIAC DISEASE: Going gluten free has become somewhat of a craze in America, even for people who aren't diagnosed with celiac disease. Many Americans are looking at this as a type of diet, and a way to cut back on carbs. While gluten doesn't have any nutritional benefit, a lot of the whole grain foods with gluten in them do offer a lot of benefits. Whole grains are often rich with vitamins and minerals such as iron, fiber, and B vitamins. Whole grains also help reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes, heart disease, and some kinds of cancer. Often times when you get rid of an entire food group there is a great risk that your body will put you at risk of nutritional
deficiencies, especially when it is necessary.
(Sources: http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/DDISEASES/PUBS/CELIAC/)


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