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Gluten Free - Healthy or Hype??

February 20, 2018

By Emma Stafford, RN, APN-C, ACHPN, APHN

It seems that ‘Gluten Free’ is the new bandwagon everyone is jumping on and you may be wondering why. The short answer is some people feel better eliminating wheat, rye, and barley from their diet. If you lived through the Fat Free, Sugar Free craze of the 80’s, you may be a little skeptical. Let’s dig deeper.

Gluten-related disorders are conditions caused by an adverse reaction to gluten or wheat, including allergic (wheat allergy), auto-immune (celiac disease), and immune response (gluten sensitivity). It is important to find out where you are on the spectrum of gluten-related disorders.

Wheat allergy has typical food allergy which can include respiratory and skin reactions immediately after ingesting wheat. People allergic to wheat must avoid all wheat and watch for hidden sources. Celiac disease is a genetic disorder that produces symptoms after eating foods that contain gluten, rye, barley (oats remain controversial). In the past, the ‘classic’ symptoms have included chronic diarrhea, weight loss and abdominal distention. More recent manifestations of Celiac disease are anemia, osteoporosis, joint pain, skin rash, neurological symptoms, behavioral changes, miscarriage and infertility. If you are diagnosed with celiac disease, eating gluten-free for life is the answer. No cheat days, no holidays, no missteps. In this group of people, gluten sets off an autoimmune reaction that can impact digestion and absorption of food.

Gluten sensitivity can present as gas, bloating, diarrhea, fatigue, ‘brain fog’, depression, joint pain, and anemia. Basically, if symptoms are triggered by exposure to gluten and relieved by eliminating gluten-containing grains from your diet, then it is gluten sensitivity.

To quote Alessio Fasano, the nation’s leading expert on Celiac disease and gluten related disorders,

“Currently, the only treatment for gluten related disorders is a gluten-free diet. People with Celiac Disease must eliminate gluten for life. Depending on their symptoms, individuals with either gluten sensitivity or wheat allergy might not have to adhere as strictly or as permanently to a gluten-free diet.”

Having to go gluten-free is not the worst thing in the world. It should be done under the guidance of your healthcare provider and a nutritionist. It is manageable, symptoms will greatly improve, and the benefits will include your best health possible.

At Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine, we are able to determine where you may fall on the spectrum of gluten related disorders through specialized, affordable testing.

Click here for more information about Hackensack Meridian Integrative Health & Medicine or call 732-263-7999.

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