In today’s society there is always something new and innovative grabbing our attention and nothing seems to captivate the public’s eye more than fad diets. One that seems to have really stuck with consumers is the “gluten-free” diet.
Lets first start with discussing what exactly gluten is: protein. Yes, gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Actually a popular protein substitute amongst vegans and vegetarians is seitan, which is just pure gluten! According to the New York Times article The Myth of Big, Bad Gluten, as many as 1 in 3 Americans attempts to avoid gluten in their everyday diet. However, in Krause’s Food and the Nutrition Care Process, only 1 in 141 persons are affected by celiac disease.
Now celiac disease is a real condition where the body issues an autoimmune response when gluten is present in the small intestine and triggers an inflammatory response usually leading to stomach discomfort and diarrhea. There is a difference, though, between celiac disease and “gluten sensitivity” and “gluten intolerance”, which are just terms commonly used to describe people with symptoms of nausea, abdominal cramps or diarrhea after ingesting foods containing gluten.
Those people with these nonspecific symptoms without an immune response should NOT be advised to avoid gluten and I will tell you why! If a physician has not diagnosed you with celiac disease, there could be a different condition in which a gluten free diet is not a recommended treatment. Or if you follow a gluten free diet for a prolonged period of time it actually makes it more difficult to diagnose celiac disease. Lastly, gluten free foods are just plain expensive and it creates a very restrictive diet!
Some like to argue that gluten and wheat have no place in our diet all together. Wheat was not introduced as a regular staple of the human diet until about 11,000-23,000 years ago and it is argued that that is not enough time for the body to adjust and adapt to digesting gluten. When you take into account that milk drinking populations’ digestive systems have adapted to digest milk past infancy and into adulthood, why couldn’t the same happen for gluten?
If you do think you have celiac disease, your best bet is to go to your physician and complete the tests necessary to determine your diagnosis. Do not assume you are allergic to gluten based off your own intuition because there could be a different underlying issue causing you problems. So, in reality, there really is no reason to live a gluten-free lifestyle unless specifically recommended to you by your physician, not Dr. Oz.
By Connor Abbott