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For some, going gluten-free is essential. For others, not so much.

January 3, 2019 / in Wellness, Nutrition & recipes / by UK HealthCare

You may have noticed a lot of people opting for a gluten-free lifestyle recently. Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are likely responsible for this shift in diet, but some people without these conditions have also picked up this diet due to claims of how it can lead to better health.

If you're confused about the differences between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity and wondering if going gluten-free without having either condition is actually good for your health, here's what you need to know about both conditions and a gluten-free diet:

Celiac disease vs. gluten sensitivity

Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disease that harms the small intestine and can cause digestive issues and malnutrition. People with celiac disease have problems processing gluten, which is found in many foods, including bread, cereal, pasta, salad dressing and even beer.

Some common signs to look for are:

  • Anemia.
  • Headaches and exhaustion.
  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Bone pain, joint pain and weak bones.
  • Tingling and numbness in hands and feet.
  • Canker sores or dry mouth.
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis (an itchy skin rash).

If celiac disease is left untreated, your risk for certain types of digestive system cancers, including lymphoma of the small intestine, is much higher. Celiac disease can also lead to permanent damage to your teeth's enamel.

On the other hand, non-celiac gluten sensitivity is a disorder with symptoms similar to celiac disease, including diarrhea and bloating, but people with gluten sensitivity do not suffer from intestinal inflammation or long-term damage to the small intestine. 

If you suspect that you might have one of these conditions, consult your doctor before you change your diet. If you're diagnosed, your doctor might refer you to a dietitian who can help you re-shape your eating habits. 

    Going gluten-free

    Following a strict gluten-free diet is necessary for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. Removing gluten from the diet can result in fewer symptoms and complications from these conditions and allows your small intestine to heal.

    Some believe a gluten-free lifestyle, even if you don't have either celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, can lead to weight loss, improved gastrointestinal health and better overall health. However, there isn't enough evidence to back up that going gluten-free when you don't need to is actually better for you.

    Going gluten-free might change your nutrient intake because some foods that contain gluten are also natural or enriched sources of vitamins and nutrients, including iron, calcium, fiber and folate. It's important to not simply switch to pre-packaged gluten-free items as these are typically high in refined carbohydrates, fat, sugar and salt. Some of the best gluten-free choices are naturally gluten-free foods, such as lean meats, vegetables and fruits.


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