by Casie Cuneio, Coordinated Program in Nutrition
The gluten free diet has gained a lot popularity lately. Celebrities, Instagram influencers, and podcast speakers are just a few of the main drivers for why this diet has become so trendy over the past few years. In fact, it has been estimated that in 2020, gluten free products will be a $4.7 billion industry worldwide, which is almost 3 times higher than it was in 2011. The increase in demand for gluten free foods can be a good and bad thing. One good thing is that more restaurants and food manufactures are offering gluten free items, which makes it easier for those who need to be on a gluten free diet to choose appropriate foods. One not so great thing is that with an increase in demand, there is also an increase in price. Gluten free products from mass-market producers have been shown to be 139% more expensive than the same gluten containing product.
What is gluten exactly?
Gluten is a protein found in foods that acts as a glue to help foods maintain their shape. Foods that naturally contain gluten include wheat, barely, and rye, and can be found in a wide range of foods such as bread, pasta, cereal, soup, sauce, salad dressings, and malt flavorings. People who have celiac disease need to be on a gluten free diet because gluten causes damage to their small intestine along with unpleasant symptoms. People who are gluten intolerant also need to avoid gluten containing foods because they cause many unpleasant systems as well. The most common symptoms include bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, headache, brain fog, joint pain, and fatigue.
Does gluten affect everyone?
According to a 2019 study, eating gluten does not generate any symptoms in healthy people who do not have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. In this study, the researchers gave 30 participants a bag of flour that either contained gluten or no gluten. The participants didn’t know which type of flour they were given and were instructed to consume the flour two times a day for two weeks. In the end, the researchers found that there were no significant differences in symptoms between the two groups. Interestingly, one survey found that out of 2,000 people, 247 reported eating gluten free foods due to other reasons besides having celiac disease or being gluten intolerant. The other reasons for consuming a gluten free diet included the conception that it was healthier or that it helped with weight loss.
Is the gluten free diet healthier?
The gluten free diet is certainly an optimal diet for those with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, but it’s not the healthiest diet for everyone. Going gluten free means you may miss out on foods that are good sources of nutrients such as fiber and B vitamins. Those who are on a gluten free diet have to make sure they eating enough good sources fiber and nutrients to compensate. Before partaking in this trend, spending money on high-dollar gluten free products, and risking inadequate nutrient intake, it’s recommended to make an appointment with your doctor if you suspect that you have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease.