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Why Going Gluten-Free Is Not Just A Fad

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People who do not have celiac disease or a heightened sensitivity to gluten may not fully understand the need to stay away from breads, pastas and baked goods – all food items that normally contain gluten.

Gluten, like its name suggests, is basically the protein “glue” that holds certain kinds of food together. It is found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale – a new kind of grain, helping to maintain the shape of food made from these ingredients.

When people who have celiac disease get “glutened,” the small intestines shut down from anywhere between 3 to 6 months. This means having to go on an absolutely gluten-free diet. It also means suffering from conditions like severe stomach cramps and flu-like symptoms. There is also the risk of malnutrition, dehydration, weight loss, diarrhea, bloating and exhaustion because the intestines won’t properly absorb the nutrients the body needs. Some patients might also experience dermatitis herpetaformis, a skin condition associated with gluten intake.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, which affects an estimated 1 in 100 people globally, as reported by the Celiac Disease Foundation. The same report says that 2.5 million Americans remain undiagnosed and are therefore at higher risk for complications. People who have first-degree relatives with celiac disease have a 1 in 10 chance of likewise developing celiac disease.

The symptoms for celiac disease are different for everyone, but it should never be ignored as it may lead to further complications. Celiac disease has been known to lead to stunted growth and even infertility in women. It affects both men and women, and can be diagnosed at any age. Diagnosis is confirmed by doing a biopsy of the small intestines during an endoscopy.

There is a growing trend featuring gluten-free diets. While people with celiac disease laud this movement, some have expressed concern that many people don’t seem to understand that celiac disease patients simply do not have a choice in the matter – they have to go gluten-free or they will suffer and might actually die. Celiac disease is referred to as an “invisible illness,” as most people who have it look perfectly fine on the surface. What people fail to grasp is that celiac disease is an auto-immune disease and not an allergy of sorts.

Going gluten-free is no easy task. It requires a lot of attention to detail, particularly in food preparation and product labeling. It can also be difficult to explain to friends and family members when dining out or ordering in that being extra-careful about gluten content is not just a “thing,” but a medical necessity. A gluten-free diet also necessitates vigilance, such as keeping separate pots and pans or even staying away from bakeries to avoid accidentally inhaling flour dust.

The problem with the gluten-free trend is that people who think they might have celiac disease immediately go gluten-free, which greatly affects the blood tests needed to confirm diagnosis. People who suspect they have celiac disease or who are experiencing symptoms when consuming gluten-rich food should always consult their physicians first to ensure the proper diagnosis. And while others might turn to gluten-free food simply for better overall health, they need to be properly informed about ingesting replacement vitamins and minerals absent in gluten-free products. This article from Live Science describes the pros and cons of a gluten-free diet.

On the bright side, the attention and awareness the gluten-free health trend has raised have made gluten-free food more accessible to the public. More and more restaurants and groceries are providing gluten-free food products, and while still more expensive than normal food items, prices have become increasingly more affordable. Government regulations and gluten-sensitive labeling has also made it easier for celiac disease patients and health food enthusiasts alike to buy food that is certified gluten-free. The proliferation of gluten-free recipes has also given those with celiac disease more options when it comes to their own kitchens.

The support for celiac disease patients has also grown considerably, with plenty of support groups, celiac disease awareness foundations and charitable organizations. Websites such as provide plenty of information for celiac disease patients and those who wish to go on gluten-free diets.

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