Have you noticed that over the past few years gluten-free diets have made their way everywhere? In response to this change, health food stores, supermarkets and many restaurants now offer gluten-free options. For those who cannot tolerate gluten (people with celiac disease), these options are a great thing. But lately going gluten-free has become trendy and hip. Those who make the lifestyle choice hope to lose weight, boost energy, or generally feel healthier. According to Dr. Daniel A. Leffler, clinical researcher at a Celiac Center in Boston, “people who are sensitive to gluten may feel better, but a larger portion will derive no significant benefit from the practice.”

Those with celiac disease absolutely cannot tolerate gluten, not even in the smallest amounts. One small crouton is enough to give trouble. For those with the disease, gluten causes damage to the lining of the small intestine by triggering an immune response. This serious problem messes with the absorption of various nutrients and can lead to problems like nerve damage, seizures, infertility and osteoporosis.

“Going gluten-free” means more than just no bread, pasta and beer. Gluten is found present in frozen veggies, various sauces, vitamin supplements, and even toothpaste. This immediately makes the diet more challenging than people anticipate.

If your mind is set on this diet, it’s vital to understand that with it comes nutritional deficiencies. Fortified breads come with Vitamin B9, known as folic acid, and without such breads bring the lack of B9. This is especially important information for gluten-free women who plan to be pregnant or are pregnant. It’s important to take a specific gluten-free multivitamin to makeup for the lack of vitamins in the diet. Whole wheat is also a known source of fiber, which help your bowels to work like they’re meant to. Most people are already fiber deficient and taking away whole wheat makes it all worse. Extra efforts must be made to get your dose of fiber by eating brown rice/quinoa, beans, etc.

Bottom line – talk to your primary care physician before deciding to go gluten-free. Be aware of who you tell after making this personal choice, those who do have celiac disease have no choice but to follow this diet that ends up being expensive, limiting and time consuming. For these people, even the tiniest bit of gluten will bring on crippling discomfort. “It’s a gigantic burden for those who have to [go gluten-free],” says Leffler, “they get frustrated when they hear how wonderful the diet is.”

We hope this information expands your knowledge on gluten and nutrition. We believe that knowledge is power, especially when it comes to your body and the things you put it in.