When to worry about good ol' gluten

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Gluten free diets for those who suffer from celiac disease

Going gluten free may be beneficial if you're among the roughly 10 percent of people who suffer from celiac disease, a genetic immune disorder, or some other form of gluten intolerance or sensitivity that causes gastrointestinal issues. But if you're not in that group, adopting a gluten-free diet may not be the best choice.

Terri Taylor, a registered dietitian and nutrition educator at HonorHealth's Virginia G. Piper Cancer Center, encourages choosing gluten-free foods wisely in this Q&A.

What is gluten?

Simply put, gluten is a protein in grains like wheat, rye, oats and barley. It's found in cereal, pasta, bread, beer, chips, crackers and more.

It seems that going gluten-free has become the latest diet fad whether it's due to an increase in gluten sensitivity or the greater accessibility of gluten-free processed and pre-packaged foods and baking products.

Does gluten free mean healthy?

Unfortunately, eating a gluten-free diet doesn't automatically mean it's good for you. Often, the refined grains in gluten-free products lack fiber and other essential vitamins and minerals. These products can be high in fat and added sugar. Getting too much sugar causes a host of other health issues, not the least of which is weight gain.

You should know that eating gluten free is not the same as eating a diet low in carbohydrates. If you make that mistake, you tend to overindulge or choose items you wouldn't otherwise include in your diet. A case in point is a gluten-free version of a popular marshmallow cereal. That's never a good idea — gluten free or not.

What are the side effects of gluten-free eating?

For those with no medical reason to avoid gluten, eating processed and refined gluten-free foods can lead to constipation or other bowel issues, anemia and/or iron deficiency, and more.

To see if gluten is the cause of your stomach issues or for help getting your diet in order, talk to your HonorHealth doctor or call 623-580-5800 to find a doctor.