You may have noticed the trend recently – either in restaurants, on magazine covers, or on the packaging of snack foods in the grocery store – of the “gluten free” diet. Gluten free diets have gained popularity over the last few years as gluten allergies have been highlighted in the media. As a result gluten free products are increasingly common.
Treating Celiac Disease with a Gluten Free Diet
Gluten is a protein compound found in wheat and related grains, such as barley and rye. Some people have a true allergy to gluten, called celiac disease. Celiac patients who ingest gluten develop changes in their intestinal tract that lead to chronic diarrhea, poor absorption of nutrients and vitamins, bloating, and malnutrition. This is particularly a problem in children as their bodies are unable to absorb the nutrients needed for healthy growth and development. These symptoms improve and usually resolve completely with a gluten free diet.
It’s not really clear how common celiac disease is. As awareness of gluten allergies has risen and tests for the disease have improved, the estimated prevalence has gone from about 1:4000 up to somewhere in the ballpark of 1:100-1:200. The celiac foundation maintains a very informative website (www.celiac.org) that includes information on a gluten-free diet.
Take a look at what isn’t allowed and you’ll probably find yourself wondering why “going gluten free” has become such a popular trend.
Maintaining a Gluten Free Diet for Gluten Sensitivity
I mean, who wants to give up bread, beer, pizza, pasta, cupcakes and cookies if you don’t have to? There are a few reasons that might convince someone to start a gluten free diet.
There is a condition called gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity that has been increasingly recognized. Some people who do not have an actual gluten allergy simply feel better when they maintain a gluten free diet. They have less abdominal bloating or discomfort, less diarrhea, and more energy. I recommend a two week trial on a gluten free diet to anyone with complaints suggestive of irritable bowel disease to see if this alleviates some or all of their symptoms.
Using a Gluten Free Diet to Lose Weight
Those looking to start a healthier diet or lose weight often view carbohydrates as “bad” and a gluten free diet can be in line with a low carbohydrate diet. If this is something you’re considering, just note that there are healthy carbohydrate options and that in most cases the gluten free version of a food that typically contains gluten often contains higher calories and fat than the everyday gluten containing version.
About Dr. Eleanor Kurtz
Eleanor Kurtz, MD, of Bon Secours Medical Associates at Virginia Beach, is an internal medicine physician who earned her medical degree from The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, Ohio. She completed an internship, as well as a residency in internal medicine, at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Va. A diplomate of the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Kurtz is a member of the American Medical Association and American College of Physicians. She has a special interest in wound care. Read more blog posts by Dr. Kurtz!
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Kurtz in Virginia Beach please call (757) 305-1797!