Gluten Free for People without Celiac Disease
There has been a lot of talk in the news recently about gluten-free diets for people who do not have celiac disease. On one side you have many health professionals counseling against following a gluten-free diet unless you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. On the other hand you have many people without celiac disease saying that they feel better by either restricting or eliminating gluten from their diet. Both sides of this debate have valid points.
The people who advise against following a gluten-free diet for people without celiac disease or gluten intolerance know how difficult and potentially expensive (as anyone who has purchased a loaf of gluten-free bread can attest!) it can be to follow a gluten-free diet in a healthful manner. They are also aware that whole grains that contain gluten (wheat, rye and barley) contribute fiber, vitamins and minerals including folate, potassium, iron and zinc to the diet. Additionally many of the foods labeled gluten free are made with refined gluten-free grains that are typically not fortified with vitamins and minerals (refined wheat flour is usually fortified with vitamins and minerals and supplies a significant amount of these nutrients to the average American diet). They are also aware that many claims can be found in regards to following a gluten-free diet have yet to be backed up with research.
On the other hand, what you choose to feed yourself and your family is a very personal choice that involves many considerations including taste, appearance, convenience, cost, and health. Since there is not currently a validated test for gluten-intolerance, even if you have tested negative for celiac disease you may still be gluten intolerant and you may feel better following a gluten-free diet. No matter the reason someone wishes to follow a gluten-free diet, it is possible to follow a gluten-free diet in a healthy way and there are many gluten-free whole grains that offer the same health benefits as the whole grains that include gluten.
So what do I recommend? I recommend following a healthy diet whether or not it includes gluten. I do not follow a gluten-free diet, but make a point of eating a variety of whole grains some of which are gluten-free (have you tried black rice? Amazing! ).
If you need help planning a healthy diet that does or does not include gluten, one of your Harmons dietitians can help with that. We offer gluten-free store tours, workshops and individual nutrition counseling. For more information on these services check out the health portion of our web site: http://www.harmonsgrocery.com/health/ or contact one of your Harmons dietitians: http://www.harmonsgrocery.com/health/dietbios/. Harmons dietitians and one of our amazing chefs, Evan Francois, will be at the Gluten Free Expo on Saturday, October 12that the South Towne Expo Center. Join us at our booth or for a cooking demonstration.
On a final note I do want to mention that if you think you have celiac disease that you should consult with your doctor about being tested for this condition rather than just following a gluten-free diet. If a completely gluten-free diet is not followed, malabsorption of vitamins and minerals may occur and permanent damage to the intestine can occur over time with ingestion of even small amounts of gluten. Additionally, many other health conditions share symptoms with celiac disease, so it is important that those conditions be ruled out.