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Does the Gluten-Free Diet Really Work?

Newsmaxhealth, May 4, 2012

People with celiac disease avoid gluten because they are allergic to the protein, which occurs naturally in grains, particularly wheat. They suffer from an overreaction in the immune system that damages the small intestine lining and diminishes its ability to absorb important nutrients.

ut lately, going gluten-free has gained traction among people who are not part of the 1 percent of the population suffering from celiac disease. That’s because they generally feel better when they do, says Dr. David Brownstein, a board-certified family physician and author of “The Guide to a Gluten-Free Diet.”

Today’s genetically modified crops result in products with gluten containing 50 percent more of the protein than they did 20 years ago, Dr. Brownstein notes, so even people who don’t have a sensitivity may be better off limiting their gluten intake.

“I do think a gluten-free diet is probably a better course for most of us, or at least a gluten-lowering diet is a better course for most of us, but particularly for those with autoimmune disorders or thyroid problems,” he says.

“Gluten ingestion is associated with autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s disease, and autoimmune disorders are increasing at epidemic rates right now,” he says. “I have most of my patients who have an autoimmune disorder remove gluten from their diet and their autoimmune disorder symptoms get much better.” While it may be difficult to initially make the switch to a gluten-free diet considering all the foods containing the protein, such as cereals, pasta, cookies, and even beer, Dr. Brownstein says it is not that difficult to maintain. Just walk down the grocery store aisle to see numerous products labeled “gluten free.”

Plus, alternatives to grains containing gluten are available, including amaranth, arrowroot, bean/nut flours, buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, potatoes, rice, soy, sorghum, and tapioca. “In today’s world there are many alternatives to eating breads, pasta, and cereal with gluten in them,” he says.