Gluten Free: friend or foe

There has been a lot of talk about gluten free diets lately that have caused controversy. It’s been from one extreme to another. The Today show talks about some dangers of gluten free diets while other doctors, such as William Davis, MD, warns of the dangers of NOT eating gluten-free.  Besides digestive issues, some say gluten can cause blood sugar issues, weak bones and even heart disease.  I personally feel the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

So what are the facts about gluten free diets? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye that some people have issues with. Gluten free diets were designed for people who truly physically cannot tolerate gluten. This includes people diagnosed with celiac disease, wheat allergies or sensitivities, or some types of autoimmune disease. It’s become popular lately as the latest health craze, but each person needs to evaluate if there is really any benefit for them.

If you are not diagnosed with one of the physical issues above, what is your reason for trying a gluten free diet? If you believe  you are sensitive to gluten although you are not formally diagnosed, try it for a week and see if there is really a difference. If there is not, there is no reason or real benefit to doing so. In fact, if your method of moving to gluten free involved removing most carbohydrates from your diet, then it can be detrimental since you need carbs for energy as well as a well-balanced diet.

I’ve had friends tell me they went on the diet to lose weight. Theoretically, one carb has the same calories as another so unless you are eliminating them once again, weight loss is usually not the result. If you are just trying to lose weight, cutting carbs from a diet that is too high in carbs is the right way to go. Then, having a mix of carbs that include wheat, barley and rye is a good part of a well-balanced diet.
Bottom line, gluten-free is not a miracle cure, it’s just the latest health craze that may or may not help you depending on your situation. Besides, limiting your food options is hard enough without forcing an unnecessary one on yourself!