Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Healthy?

Okay so I just saw the Dr. OZ video on gluten, the gluten diet and what he described as the myths surrounding the gluten diet. I think the purpose of the segment was to discuss the fad of a gluten-free diet as a way to lose weight and whether this is a healthy way to lose weight. The segment was a bit confusing regarding the real point he was trying to make so I thought I would discuss some points regarding a gluten-free diet, why it may be the healthiest thing for you, why people lose weight on a gluten-free diet, why a gluten-free diet may not be healthy for you, and what a gluten-free diet should not be.

First thing we should probably discuss is what is gluten?

Gluten in simple terms is a protein found in grains. The most problematic seem to be in wheat, barley, rye, and malt. But any of the grain foods can be problematic for someone for a number of reasons. I will cover more of these in a later article.

The real question is should you be on a gluten-free diet?

And the answer is may be. If you are sensitive or intolerant to gluten or its breakdown components or have Celiac Disease the answer is yes. If you are not gluten intolerant/sensitive or do not have Celiac Disease the answer is maybe. The maybe, is because we now know through research that gluten can cause cross-reactions with other food sensitivities and although you are not sensitive to gluten, eating it may make your other food sensitivities worse.

So how do you find out if you are gluten sensitive?

Well, Dr. OZ and his guest Dr. Hyman suggest you go totally gluten-free for two weeks, then add gluten back and see how you feel. While this sounds like an easy way to do it and some people notice improvement, others do this and feel no change and assume they therefore don't have a problem with gluten. There are multiple reasons a person may not notice any change:

1. Too short of a time period. I have many patients that don't notice changes until they have been off of gluten for longer periods of time.

2. They may be off gluten, but they are eating foods that can be cross-reactive like coffee, milk protein (casein), etc. These foods look similar enough to your immune system for some people that when they eat them, your body thinks its gluten and you get a response just like eating gluten. So this may not work for everyone.

3. You may have what is called "Leaky Gut Syndrome". Leaky Gut Syndrome simply means that your intestinal track has become too porous and is letting things like undigested food, bacterial toxins, etc. get into the blood stream. These undigested foods like rice protein or egg protein may continue an immune reaction even though you are off gluten and no change is noticed.