With gluten-free labels lining the shelves of grocery stores and celebrities gushing over life without gluten on Twitter, the popularity of the gluten-free diet has soared in recent years. But with only 1 in 133 Americans actually diagnosed with celiac disease, skeptics worry that it’s just the latest diet craze.
Many people perceive gluten-free products as “healthier” but they often don’t contain as much fiber and aren’t fortified with the same vitamins as whole wheat products. And a gluten-free cookie is still packed with the same sugar and fat as a regular one.
Still, many Americans who aren’t diagnosed with celiac disease say they experience a range of benefits from going gluten-free, from decreased symptoms of arthritis and allergies to better digestion and weight loss. It could even help with migraine headaches, since last year research showed that people with a gluten intolerance are more likely to suffer from chronic headache.
Indeed, a 2011 panel of experts concluded that there is such thing as a “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” related to a broad range of conditions. A recent article in The New York Times discusses the debate and research over how to diagnose and treat non-celiac gluten sensitivities.
Chiropractor Thomas O’Bryan, who was featured in the Times piece, said that 30% of his patients have tested positive for antibodies to proteins found in gluten. Avoiding wheat could help many of those patients, he suggested.
Experts advise people to avoid “self-diagnosing”; categorically removing a food from your diet could have detrimental consequences if you don’t balance it out with other nutrients. A doctor of chiropractic trained in nutrition can help you determine whether a gluten-free diet makes sense for you.
AAN: Migraine prevalence ip in celiac Disease, IBD patients. Doctors Lounge. April 27,2012. Accessed May 7,2012.http://www.doctorslounge.com/index.php/news/pb/28608/.
Chang, Kenneth. Gluten-free, whether you need it or not. The New York Times. February 4, 2013. Accessed February 5, 2013. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/02/04/gluten-free-whether-you-need-it-or-not/?nl=health&emc=edit_hh_20130205.
Ludvigsson JF, et al. The Oslo definitoins for coeliac diases and related terms. Gut 2013;62:43–52. doi:10.1136/gutjnl-2011-301346.