Should You Go Gluten-Free?

Should You Go Gluten-Free?

Check out this quick article and clear up when and how you can go gluten-free.


These days, the variety of gluten-free products seems to be growing by the minute. As more and more people realize they are sensitive to wheat, there are many questions popping up and being debated by medical experts and nutritionists. If you’re confused — and many people are — read this for a quick primer before seeing your doctor to determine whether you and your family should go gluten free or not.

What Exactly is Gluten?
Gluten is a natural protein found in wheat, barley, rye and certain other cereal grains. Any food that contains flour made from those grains (like most breads, pastas, pizzas — and even beer) has gluten.

For those with normal digestive functioning, gluten is harmless. However, some people fall into the category of gluten-sensitive and experience one or more of these common gluten sensitivity symptoms when they consume gluten:

  • gastrointestinal distress
  • headaches
  • achiness
  • mood shifts or irritability
  • dizziness and fatigue

Once diagnosed, gluten-sensitive people almost always experience better health once they cut gluten from their diet.

What is Celiac Disease?
According to the National Institutes of Health, celiac disease is “a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food.” After eating gluten, those with affected by celiac disease feel a similar range of symptoms as those who are gluten sensitive.

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In this case, however, it’s caused by an immune reaction in the small intestine, which damages (or destroys) villi and ultimately prevents food from being absorbed. No matter how much food that person eats, they will be malnourished and that can lead to long-term effects such as brain dysfunction, damage to the bones and adverse effects to other essential organs.

While those afflicted with celiac disease face greater risks, following a strict gluten-free diet can help keep them healthy, as celiac disease has no cure.

Should You Go Gluten-Free?
If you suspect that gluten may be a problem for your child (or for you), follow these steps:

  1. First see your doctor for a gluten sensitivity test. If the test comes back negative but you still see symptoms, talk to him about trying a gluten-free diet for a month or two. (Just be sure to get adequate nutrition — especially iron, calcium, fiber and folate — from alternate sources.)
  2. In terms of switching up your little one’s beloved PB&J or morning bowl of cereal, there are tons of gluten-free bread and cereal options. Try a couple until you find some she likes. And up your offerings of foods that are naturally gluten-free, like oatmeal, corn tortillas and rice crackers (which are yummy with PB&J, by the way). Beans and seeds in their natural form do not contain gluten, nor does buckwheat, rice, quinoa or soy. Some surprising places gluten might be hiding include salad dressings, chips, processed deli meats and candy, so you’ll need to become an expert label reader.
  3. During the trial period, if you notice a positive change in behavior or health, stick with the program. After a few months, you can try gradually adding back foods that contain gluten to see if they still present a problem. If they do, the benefits of permanently leaving those items out of your diet are well worth the sacrifice.

While it may require you to make some changes to your daily eating habits, being gluten-free is possible if you put your mind to it. Crafting quick, delicious meals without gluten is possible, too. If anything, you’ll get more creative in the kitchen!

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