About one in 133 Americans suffers from the autoimmune disorder celiac disease: a severe gluten intolerance; it impedes the absorption of important nutrients like calcium and iron and can lead to abdominal pain, decreased appetite, and digestive tract cancers. The plethora of gluten-free products that are available — from pizza crust to bagels and pasta — is a lifesaver for those who have celiac disease. However, buying gluten-free products when you're nonceliac is a waste of money, according to an opinion paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
Keep reading to find out who should splurge on gluten-free foods and who should save their dough.
Going gluten-free has become trendy for many reasons, two of the biggest beliefs being it can help you lose weight and that it's generally healthier, which unfortunately isn't always true. While ditching gluten-containing foods can reduce your caloric intake, replacing these items with their gluten-free substitutes simply replaces the same amount of carbs and calories. Add to that, many gluten-free products are processed and full of fats and sugar. The bottom line, say the paper's authors, is that if you don't need to eat a gluten-free diet because of an allergy, skip it and save your money. Most gluten-free products are expensive and just not worth it, they say.
It's a bit trickier for those who omit gluten because they may have a sensitivity, say the authors. The problem is there is no fail-safe way to test for the sensitivity outside of a "research setting." A recent study, however, showed that going gluten-free, even when you don't have celiac disease, may be beneficial. If you've been to the doctor and ruled out celiac, but still suffer from fatigue, bloating, and other stomach issues, go gluten-free for a couple of weeks and see how you feel. If symptoms improve, reintroduce gluten back into your diet, if symptoms return, chances are you have a sensitivity. While definitely not the most scientific test, it may help those tummy issues once and for all.
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