Health Benefits of a Gluten-Free Diet

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Should You Be On a Gluten-Free Diet

What is Gluten?

Wheat, barley and rye contain a protein known as gluten. Although gluten can be well-tolerated as a healthy part of a typical diet, some people have sensitivities to this protein. People who have physical reactions to the ingestion of foods containing gluten may experience relief from symptoms by eliminating gluten from the diet. Many food products cater to people following a gluten-free diet due to the increasing prevalence of gluten intolerance and celiac disease. You can replace grains that contain gluten with other gluten-free grains such as corn, flax, millet and rice. Although eating a gluten-free diet can be challenging at times, your health may benefit if you eat a gluten-free diet.

Celiac Disease

Some people have an autoimmune disorder called celiac disease. People afflicted with this illness will experience serious autoimmune responses with the ingestion of gluten. The small intestine of a person with celiac disease will react to gluten by failing to absorb nutrients in food. Symptoms of celiac disease include either decreased or increased appetite, stomach pain, bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea, gas, nausea and bloody or fatty stools. Other health issues associated with celiac disease include anemia, depression, fatigue, migraines, skin rashes, bone and joint pain, infertility and osteoporosis. Unexplained or persistent health issues might warrant celiac testing to determine whether celiac disease is the cause of the symptoms. Testing involves a blood test or a small intestine biopsy. If a doctor confirms celiac disease, a gluten-free diet can relieve symptoms because the absence of gluten will eliminate the autoimmune response of the small intestine.

Gluten Intolerance and Gluten Sensitivity

A gluten intolerance or sensitivity can create some symptoms similar to celiac disease. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity will mirror celiac symptoms closely; however, the issues are not a result of an autoimmune disorder and the problem is not genetic. For this reason, a person with non-celiac gluten sensitivity will not experience small intestine damage from ingesting gluten, but unpleasant symptoms will occur nonetheless. Some gluten intolerance involves fewer intestinal issues than celiac disease does. Another difference is the timing of the symptoms. With gluten intolerance, symptoms may not occur until days after someone ingests gluten, whereas sufferers of celiac disease will often experience symptoms within hours of ingesting gluten. Symptoms of gluten intolerance include migraine headaches, skin rashes, acne, joint pain or numbness, fatigue, forgetfulness, diarrhea or constipation, gas and bloating. If you suspect gluten intolerance, try eliminating gluten from the diet completely to see if symptoms improve. Wheat allergies can also produce undesired symptoms such as itchy rashes, hives, facial swelling, vomiting, diarrhea and breathing problems.

Autism and a Gluten-free Diet

People with autism spectrum disorder may experience relieved symptoms by following a gluten-free and casein-free diet. Casein is the protein found in dairy products. People with autism may have difficulty metabolizing peptides that occur from casein and gluten. When these proteins fail to break down properly, the resulting peptides cause problems in the brain, which leads to autistic behaviors. Research does not fully substantiate the correlation between gluten and casein with autism; however, parents often decide to try this diet adjustment in an attempt to reduce and relieve autism symptoms. Children may need to eat the gluten-free diet for as long as one year before measurable changes occur with behavior and symptoms. An autistic child who also experiences intestinal issues that coincide with gluten intolerance may be especially helped by following a gluten-free diet. Before attempting a gluten-free diet with a child, consult a physician for advice and guidance. Never proceed with diet adjustments without assistance from a physician. Parents may find it difficult to monitor and maintain the gluten-free diet with a child if the child does not want to adhere to the food limitations.

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