One need only look online to find an array of different fad diets, all promising better health, and a slimmer waist. The gluten-free diet has been a popular choice among many for years, although it may not be as beneficial as you might think. Those with celiac disease require a gluten-free diet, however, there are many who do not have celiac disease that choose to remain gluten-free. While this diet isn’t just for those with celiac disease, do you know if it is the right diet for you?
If You Have Celiac Disease:
Celiac disease is a genetic, chronic autoimmune condition where exposure to gluten causes damage to the small intestine. Any ingestion of food, drink, or medicine containing gluten could cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, and damage to the lining of the small intestine. The only way for those with celiac disease to avoid a bad reaction to gluten is to follow a strict gluten-free diet. Gluten-free diets can also be helpful for those with celiac-negative gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia (a neurological disorder), type 1 diabetes, and HIV-associated enteropathy.
While those with celiac disease should avoid any forms of gluten in their diet, you should wait for an official diagnosis of celiac disease from a gastroenterologist before ditching gluten for good. A simple blood test can look for antibodies attacking the small intestine and a biopsy procedure will find any damage to the small intestine.
“People with symptoms should be evaluated for their symptoms and a gluten-free diet can be used if celiac disease is the answer,” said fellowship trained, board certified gastroenterologist Jonathan D. Eisner, MD, FACG. Trying a gluten-free diet before evaluation could render your endoscopic biopsy useless and interfere with your diagnosis.
For Those without Gluten-Sensitivity:
Many people on a gluten-free diet are undiagnosed and asymptomatic of celiac disease. For the most part, a gluten-free diet won’t necessarily offer any additional health benefits. While it may look good to see that gluten-free logo on your snacks or food, most commercially prepared gluten-free products have similar nutritional content as products containing gluten. For those who want to follow a healthy, gluten-free diet, try foods that are naturally gluten-free like lean meats, fruits, vegetables, and more.
While eating less bread-related products could improve your diet, a completely gluten-free diet could pose a health risk if your diet isn’t balanced and nutritional. In fact, one study conducted by the Celiac Disease Foundation found that a gluten-free diet may affect your cardiovascular risk given the decreased consumption of whole grains.
The bottom line? If you don’t have celiac disease, a gluten-free diet won’t kill you, but it is unnecessary. While celebrity endorsement, marketing, and even anecdotal evidence might try to sell you on the miracle benefits of eating gluten-free, the reality is there is no concrete evidence to prove the health benefits. If you’re experiencing gluten insensitivity, don’t wait to find help. Talk to a TPMG gastroenterologist about your symptoms today and find relief.
About Jonathan D. Eisner, MD, FACG
Jonathan D. Eisner, MD, FACG, is a fellowship trained, board certified gastroenterologist specializing in the treatment and management of gastrointestinal diseases. Dr. Eisner has over 25 years of experience in the treatment and care of gastrointestinal conditions including colorectal polyps, cancer prevention, Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis, and Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GERD).
Gastroenterology Services at TPMG
TPMG Gastroenterology offices are conveniently located in Newport News and Williamsburg. Our gastroenterology specialist physicians have extensive experience in the treatment and care of gastrointestinal conditions including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and acid reflux, as well as cancer screening and prevention.