Gluten-free doesn’t mean guilt-freeWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
It seems like a lot of people are eating gluten-free these days — some for medical reasons, some because it is the newest health trend.
My husband’s nephew suffers from celiac disease and absolutely must avoid eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
Before he was diagnosed, he was losing weight because the autoimmune disease was blocking the absorption of nutrients. The gluten was toxic to his body and damaging his small intestine’s lining.
By going gluten-free and avoiding gluten-filled bread, noodles and cereals, his quality of life has improved dramatically. He is thriving physically and mentally.
Those who go undiagnosed can eventually develop brain damage because of the lack of nutrients.
But many people not suffering from celiac disease are going gluten-free these days because of the perceived health benefits.
Nathan Drendel, a dietitian and wellness coach with ProMedica Wellness, said this is a fad and not necessarily one that everyone has to follow.
Excluding those who need a gluten-free diet, this urgency to go gluten-free reminds him of when everyone went low-carb with the Atkins Diet. Just like before, grocery stores and restaurants are offering a plethora of products and menu items to cater to this latest craze.
But unlike during the low-carb trend, Drendel said food companies are realizing that celiac disease is being diagnosed more frequently because of increased awareness of the disease so the offerings are good in that sense. However, they are also realizing gluten-free is a trend that people will buy into, with or without a medical problem.
“What I always tell my clients is that food companies are good at using health halos. They know in the public eye that ‘gluten-free’ is a buzz phrase.”
A lot of people will blindly buy gluten-free food because they hear it is good for them, while there is no science that shows that gluten is poor for the human population, he said.
However, some people might have gluten intolerance when eating items like white bread and egg noodles. This is similar to lactose intolerance; it feels uncomfortable, but it won’t cause permanent bodily damage. Drendel’s advice is to eat from all food groups if medically able. Pick lean proteins, non-starchy vegetables and low-fat dairy and cut back on refined foods.
“I encourage people to enjoy food, but my approach is to learn about your food. Don’t let companies tell you about their food. Take an active role to cook and read food labels.”