Should You Go Gluten-Free?
Mike Parker

Wanna hear something really scary?


Yeah, that’s right. I said the “G” word. Gluten – the very sound of it kind of makes your mouth taste bad, doesn’t it. Do you feel tired? Too much gluten in your diet! Are you depressed? You need to cut gluten out of your diet! Got that bloated feeling after you eat? Yeah, it’s all that gluten you’ve been eating. Join the gluten-free revolution!

At least that’s the mantra of the gluten-free bandwagon that has produced a market for gluten-free products could reach an astounding $7.5 billion by the year 2020. It’s even made its way into dog food commercials (a woman reads the ingredients on her favorite pet food bag, rolls her eyes and says in disgust, “Corn gluten!”) But is gluten really bad for you, and is going gluten-free really good for you? Well, it all depends, according to the Harvard Medical School.

Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in certain grains, such as wheat, barley and rye. It is pretty ubiquitous in common baked goods, pasta, breakfast cereals and even in foods and beverages you might not suspect, such as beer. And yes, gluten can be very bad for you, if you happen to be in the 1 percent of the population that suffers from celiac disease, a serious autoimmune disorder that virtually destroys the intestinal tract. The problem is, you can’t self-diagnose celiac disease. The only way to get a definitive diagnosis is through blood tests followed by an intestinal biopsy.

For those who suffer from celiac disease going gluten-free is essential. For most other folks, going gluten-free might make you feel better, but chances are that has less to do with being gluten-free and more to do with making healthier eaten choices, such as reaching for a piece of fruit instead of a piece of cake. And with a gluten-free diet there is a very real chance that you’re not getting the nutrients you need. Many gluten-free products are made with refined, unenriched grains and starches that offer plenty of calories but are seriously deficient in fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc.

Unless your doctor recommends a gluten-free diet, consider simply eating a more balanced diet, including more fresh fruits and veggies. Getting outside and exercising isn’t a bad idea either.

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