More and more people are choosing to switch to gluten-free food. Although 30 percent of Americans are attracted to the idea of a gluten-free life many may not realize what it entails. Dr. Sheila Crowe, Vice President of the American Gastroenterological Association and Professor of Gastroenterology at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, states that there are many reasons for the sudden growth of interest in gluten-free diets, as well as the rising number of patients expressing their theories about gluten intolerance to physicians. Due to a lack of data, it is not possible to determine whether these theories are right or wrong. Despite the lack of scientific certainty, the gluten-free diet seems to be firmly established.

7 Things To Know Before Adopting A Gluten-Free Diet

Consult Your Doctor
Before making the decision to go gluten free, you need to make sure this is the right course of action. Medical advice should be sought if celiac disease is suspected. Weight loss, iron deficiency, anemia or a family history of celiac disease indicate that a doctor should be consulted before giving up gluten in hope of improving health.

Consult A Registered Dietitian
It is recommended that people who need to follow a gluten-free diet see a registered dietitian that specializes in celiac disease. Most doctors do not have the time or knowledge to advise patients on their nutritional needs, and people on gluten-free diets can end up lacking nutrients by failing to choose adequate substitute foods. A dietitian familiar with the requirements of the gluten-free diet may offer alternative foods to ensure that you receive all the essential nutrients.

Gluten Is Often Hidden In Unexpected Places
Spelt grain, soy sauce, salad dressing and veggie burgers are just a few of the foods that you may not expect to contain gluten. Also included are many shampoos, conditioners and cosmetics (including lipstick), dietary supplements or medicines. Always read labels and package inserts carefully, as ingesting even small amounts of gluten can agitate the digestive system.

You Can Eat Grains
All grains do not contain gluten. There are many options, including buckwheat, millet, amaranth, quinoa, sorghum, teff and rice. Oats are also gluten-free, but beware of cross contamination with wheat during processing.

You May Not Lose Weight
Eliminating refined carbohydrates like bread, crackers, pasta and other processed foods in favor of whole grains may reduce excess carbohydrates, but replacing them with gluten-free substitutes may mean that more fat and sugar is consumed, hence more calories. The choice of gluten-free products is growing rapidly, but that does not mean that they should be consumed. Celiac patients who have removed gluten may find that they gain weight. By eating gluten, malabsorption can lead some people to unwittingly consume up to 3,000 extra calories daily. Once gluten is removed and the small intestine begins to heal, the excess daily calories will begin to show.

Skin Problems May Disappear
Many people with celiac disease notice an improvement in their skin when they go gluten free. Skin problems like eczema and psoriasis may also improve. However, there is no research that establishes whether this is due specifically to gluten, wheat in general, or simple abandonment of processed foods.

Be Prepared For Skeptics
Friends and relatives may question your decision to go gluten-free. They may struggle to understand why you gave up gluten. Their questions and negative comments may be irritating, especially if they revolve around the foods that you are excluding, or the implication that there is nothing that you can eat. Be patient. You may have to explain repeatedly until it sinks in or they lose interest.

Going gluten free is not necessary for most people. Excluding gluten from the diet may be essential for some, but others may just choose to. One in 133 people have celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that damages the walls of the small intestine if gluten is ingested. According to a 2006 study, about 4 percent of people have a wheat allergy diagnosed by a doctor. Among them, an allergic response to wheat (gluten) may include skin, respiratory and gastrointestinal symptoms.

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness found that nearly 18 million Americans have a sensitivity to non-celiac gluten, which may also cause the same symptoms. People may avoid gluten for health reasons, although they may show no symptoms of intolerance. There is a belief that gluten is not good for the human body. This idea could stem from the progression of humans from hunter-gatherers to farmers and cultivators, and the simultaneous increase of cereals in the diet, but there is little evidence that a gluten-free diet means better health.

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