Is Gluten Bad For You?!

Women’s Health Has The Answer! :

What It Is, Exactly
Gluten is a protein found in the grains wheat, barley, and rye. Most of us unknowingly love it, because gluten gives our favorite foods that special touch: It makes pizza dough stretchy, gives bread its spongy texture, and is used to thicken sauces and soups.

Gluten-free eating has a basis in science, and it does help a genuine health problem. To people with a chronic digestive disorder called celiac disease, gluten is truly evil: Their bodies regard even a tiny crumb of it as a malicious invader and mount an immune response, says Alessio Fasano, M.D., medical director of the University of Maryland Center for Celiac Research in Baltimore. Problem is, this immune reaction ends up damaging the small intestine, which causes both great gastrointestinal distress and nutritional deficiencies. If untreated, these responses can then lead to intestinal cancers as well as complications such as infertility and osteoporosis.

Experts once thought celiac disease was a rare disorder, believed to affect one in every 10,000 people. But an Archives of Internal Medicine study in 2003 suggests that celiac disease is far more prevalent than anyone had suspected, affecting one in 133 Americans. With increased testing and awareness, more people realized why they felt sick after eating a piece of bread, and food companies discovered a new market.

Now another problem is emerging, and experts are referring to it as nonceliac gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitivity can lead to similar celiac symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, and bloating. But unlike celiac, sensitivity doesn’t damage the intestine. For years, health professionals didn’t believe nonceliac gluten sensitivity existed, but experts are beginning to acknowledge that it may affect as many as 20 million Americans, says Fasano.

The Health Hype
Thanks to the increase in diagnosed celiac and gluten sensitivity cases, and the corresponding uptick in foods marketed to sufferers, “gluten-free diets have emerged from obscurity, and now the pendulum has swung completely in the other direction,” says Fasano. And with this popularity push, people have latched on to avoiding gluten as a cure-all for many conditions aside from celiac, including migraines, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. While some have found relief, that doesn’t mean a gluten free diet will work in all cases.

And then there’s the idea that a gluten-free existence is the ticket to speedy weight loss. But, says Mark DeMeo, M.D., director of gastroenterology and nutrition at the Adult Celiac Disease Program at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, “there’s nothing magical about a gluten-free diet that’s going to help you lose weight.” What’s really at work: Gluten-free dining can seriously limit the number of foods you can eat. With fewer choices, you’re a lot less likely to overeat, says Shelley Case, R.D., author of Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide and a medical advisory board member for the Celiac Disease Foundation.

But it can backfire too, because gluten-free doesn’t mean fat-free or calorie-free.

“Without gluten to bind food together, food manufacturers often use more fat and sugar to make the product more palatable,” says Case. Consider pretzels: A serving of regular pretzels has about 110 calories and just one gram of fat. Swap them for gluten-free pretzels and you could get 140 caloriesand six grams of fat.

Read more at Women’s Health: http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/gluten-free-diet#ixzz1yqyoEjSa

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