Is Gluten-Free Healthy?

By Temma Ehrenfeld @temmaehrenfeld
June 30, 2023
Is Gluten-Free Healthy?

Gluten-free desserts and snacks and bad advice about avoiding wheat are everywhere these days. Is gluten-free healthy? Here's what you should know.Is gluten-free healthy?

Is gluten unhealthy?

A tiny amount of gluten — one small crouton — can trigger an intestinal immune reaction in people with celiac disease. Over time, those reactions damage your small intestine, interfering with how well you absorb the nutrients in food, and can lead to serious illness, including nerve damage. Blood tests that find antibodies against the protein tissue transglutaminase can identify celiac disease, followed by a biopsy of your intestine.

You can also have gluten sensitivity, which generates similar symptoms. Abdominal pain, diarrhea, and bloating are the most obvious. One theory suggests that gluten triggers a general immune response in people with gluten intolerance. The problem may affect only about 1 percent of the population, about the same number of people who have celiac disease. Yet estimates indicate that up to a third of the population is trying to avoid gluten.


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To go gluten-free, you need to give up standard grain products, including beer. But there’s gluten in soy sauce, supplements, natural flavorings, and all kinds of products. You’ll have to read food labels and generally avoid processed food to go gluten-free.

If you are sensitive to gluten but don’t have celiac disease, you might try a sour-dough bread from a local baker, or you can bake it yourself. Sour-dough bread is fermented, traditionally by yeast in the air that eventually grow bacteria that is good for your digestion. The fermentation can break down the peptides in gluten that can cause trouble in your digestive system.

You may not need to eat gluten-free

You may hear or read that everyone should stay away from gluten. But if you really don’t have celiac or gluten sensitivity, avoiding all wheat could be bad if you don’t make sure your diet is balanced. Wheat is a major source of B vitamins and fiber for many people.

If you avoid gluten, you’ll need to make sure you get fiber from fruit, vegetables, beans, and safe grains, such as quinoa and brown rice.

Don’t fall for the Paleo diet idea that claims you’ll be eating more like your ancestors if you go gluten-free and load up on meat. Evidence suggests that we’ve been eating the early grass versions of wheat and barley longer than we’ve been eating meat.


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June 30, 2023

Reviewed By:  

Janet O’Dell, RN