Time to Go Gluten-Free?

I recently wrote an article about the growing popularity of gluten-free (GF) diets, and some healthy ideas for GF snacking.  A recent study (1) found that celiac disease, a genetic intolerance to wheat gluten, is much more prevalent in the United States than previously thought — about two million Americans have celiac disease, and most don’t know it.

My previous article goes into more detail about the difference between celiac disease, and the less severe (and also less well-defined) condition called gluten intolerance.  The authors of the current study found that many people who follow a gluten-free diet (GFD) do not have actual celiac disease.  According to a report about this study on Medscape,

…the authors emphasize that embarking on a GFD without first confirming the diagnosis of CD is not a good idea.
“Symptomatic improvement of gastrointestinal symptoms after gluten withdrawal is considered a poor predictor of a CD diagnosis,” the authors note. “Self-treatment with a GFD is not recommended and should be discouraged.”

 Okay — read that last paragraph again.  They’re saying that feeling better is not a good reason to avoid gluten.  You must have celiac disease in order to follow a GF diet.  Huh?  Now there is conventional medical thinking at its finest:  You can’t have the medicine unless you have a specific disease.  In this case, the medicine is a GF diet.  There is absolutely no reason to keep eating gluten if you feel better while avoiding it!

Just remember one caveat:  If you decide to experiment with a GF diet, maintain healthy, balanced food choices.  Don’t just substitute our gluten-saturated Standard American Diet (S.A.D.) with gluten-free versions of junk food.  A lot of foods marketed as GF are highly processed.  Stick with the whole foods approach, and kick your health into high gear.

1.  The Prevalence of Celiac Disease in the United States.  Am J Gastroenterol advance online publication 31 July 2012; doi: 10.1038/ajg.2012.219

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