Diet crazes come and go, from forgoing carbs with the Atkins diet to rewinding back a few decades with the baby food diet. Some people will try anything to lose weight. Today, many people are going gluten free in an effort to shed pounds and get healthy, but nutrition experts agree it’s not for everyone.
A gluten free diet was designed for people with celiac disease. Celiac disease is an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. According to Mayo Clinic, if you have celiac disease, eating gluten triggers an immune response in your small intestine causing damaging inflammation that can prevent your body from absorbing some nutrients.
Some people swear eliminating gluten can also cause you to shed excess pounds, but Teresa Murphy, a registered dietitian with Ministry Health Care, says only those with diagnosed celiac are meant to go gluten-free, but others have tried it and like the results.
“I do have patients who follow a gluten free diet and they feel wonderful and in that case I say go ahead, it’s certainly not harmful,” Murphy said. “You do need to be aware of sneaking in those whole grains.”
Whole grains give you a dose of vitamin D, zinc and magnesium which you can typically get from whole grains that have gluten, most notably wheat. Millet, quinoa, amaranth and rice are naturally gluten-free grains.
Murphy says her patients tell her quality gluten free products are difficult to find and expensive. Many of them also include high amounts of fat and sodium.
“Gluten free doesn’t mean it’s good for you,” Murphy said.
People can lose weight going gluten free, but it’s likely not from the gluten itself, but from cutting down on bread, pasta, and cookies.
“It’s not necessarily the gluten free but the large amount of those gluten products that the American diet is typical of,” she said.
Murphy doesn’t recommend any fad diet, which she insists are short term, not scientifically studied and eliminate whole food groups.
“I just don’t like them because of the restrictions a lot of them have. They miss out on a lot of nutrients.”
If you don’t have a food allergy, Murphy recommends a well-rounded diet that hits all the major food groups including fruits and vegetables, lean protein, low fat dairy and whole grains. She says it’s all about the portions, which should be limited. When you eat a variety of foods in moderation, you lose weight she says.
Meanwhile, it’s very possible to have celiac disease and not know it. Symptoms include bloating, stomach cramping, anemia, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, acid reflux, and a blistery rash. Some people with the disease have few or no symptoms. Murphy suggests getting checked by a physician if you think you may have celiac disease.