The Health Implications of a Gluten-Free Diet

Despite the growing demand for gluten-free diets, the truth is that people shouldn't adopt a gluten-free diet unless they have a gluten intolerance.
The Health Implications of a Gluten-Free Diet

Last update: 09 January, 2020

A gluten-free diet promises certain health benefits, but this isn’t always accurate. This has lead to the debate as to whether gluten-free diets have real positive health effects or if they’re nothing more than a new fad.

Gluten-Free Diet in People Who Don’t Suffer from Celiac Disease

A woman who decided to cut out gluten products from her diet.

Today, gluten-free diets have become popular due to the belief that not consuming this food can lead to weight loss. This isn’t true and – although gluten isn’t an essential protein – cutting it out from your diet isn’t recommended if you don’t suffer from Celiac disease.

First of all, it’s essential to state that some people may have a certain sensitivity or intolerance to gluten. Of course, a specialist should diagnose these disorders. If you’re diagnosed with gluten intolerance, it will be important to eliminate gluten from your diet.

In addition, a gluten-free diet is beneficial for people who suffer from inflammatory bowel diseases or autoimmune diseases. It’s also good for people who suffer from hormonal or even neurological disorders.

However, it’s important to note that only people with gluten intolerance or one of these health issues should follow a gluten-free diet. Cutting this food from your diet unnecessarily isn’t advisable and only reflects a widespread belief based on myths.

Ultimately, the most important thing is to follow a balanced diet that accommodates both plant and animal foods, as well as whole grains and dairy products.

Whenever it’s due to a special need or not, you shouldn’t blindly believe that a gluten-free diet will benefit you in any way.

Celiac Disease

Picture that shows many wheat products.

Celiac disease is a permanent intolerance of unknown origin. This condition often causes chronic inflammation of the mucosa of the small intestine and the progressive atrophy of this organ’s villi. People who are diagnosed with this condition have to adopt a gluten-free diet.

For starters, the symptoms by which one can detect gluten intolerances often come with digestive problems. These symptoms include gas, bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation. In addition, skin problems, fatigue, or sleep disorders can manifest.

One of the main characteristics of people with celiac disease is that it’s really hard for them to gain weight. This is because the villi of the small intestine are unable to absorb nutrients from wheat products. Logically, this means that they’re also unable to absorb calories from these foods.

However, unnecessarily cutting gluten products from your diet can make you lose control of your weight, meaning that you gain more weight than when you do consume them.

Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity

This disorder affects between 1% and 6% of the population. In order to treat it, doctors recommend that people who are gluten sensitive also cut gluten from their diets.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is often connected with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. In total, it affects about 15% of the population. This problem comes with abdominal pain, diarrhea, and  flatulence. A gluten-free diet can help reduce the symptoms.

On the other hand, some people are allergic to some wheat proteins. However, this may vary between children and adults. In this sense, children are often affected by a more classic allergy that often disappears during childhood.

Overall, these types of allergies have very varied symptoms, from itching to intestinal discomfort. Due to how difficult it is to diagnose these conditions, the only treatment option is to eliminate wheat and its derivatives, thus adopting a necessary gluten-free diet.

No matter what, it’s important to know that a gluten-free diet is only beneficial for someone who suffers from Celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or an allergy. Otherwise, you should not exclude it from your diet.

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  • Niewinski, M. M. (2008). Advances in Celiac Disease and Gluten-Free Diet. Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
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  • Caio, G., Volta, U., Tovoli, F., & De Giorgio, R. (2014). Effect of gluten free diet on immune response to gliadin in patients with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. BMC Gastroenterology.