Should You Go Gluten-Free?

By Kristin Ohlson, July/August 2009

Whole grains are good for you. So why are so many Americans giving up wheat, rye and barley? Should you?

"I am a vegetarian whose blood sugar was creeping up past the normal range. (Type 2 diabetes, here I come) Several friends who had been on medication for years for type 2 CURED their disease by going completely gluten-free. I joined...

Should we all be avoiding gluten? For most people, a gluten-free diet offers no benefits; in fact, it may even bring unwanted results, such as weight gain and nutritional deficiencies. Experts concur that gluten-free eating performs wonders for one group of people: those, like my friend Anne, who have celiac disease.

Moreover, the list of symptoms has ballooned. Celiac disease is now implicated in a huge list of symptoms beyond digestive problems, including arthritis, anemia, infertility, a rash on the elbows and knees often mistaken for psoriasis, improper formation of tooth enamel and osteoporosis.

To complicate matters further, some people with celiac disease are completely asymptomatic. Doctors who are savvy about risk factors spot the red flags in a patient’s medical history and recommend the proper screens: an initial blood test that detects the antibodies created when a person with celiac disease consumes gluten and then a biopsy of the small intestine to confirm damage to intestinal villi. Anyone with a relative who has celiac disease should be tested. So should people with other autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes or thyroid disease: having one autoimmune condition increases your risk for developing others. (My friend Anne, who had suffered gastrointestinal problems for years, was diagnosed shortly after discovering she had a thyroid disorder.)

Next: Some Doctors Miss the Signs »

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