HealthWatch: Gluten-Free: Health Benefits for Non-Celiacs

Published 06/29 2014 12:17PM

Updated 07/04 2014 06:49PM

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - These days, whole supermarket aisles are devoted to products that are gluten-free. Easy access to these foods is a blessing for the two-million Americans who struggle with celiac disease and can't tolerate gluten.

However, the gluten-free movement is gaining followers for other health reasons.

Paul Daniel suffers from food allergies and decided to go gluten-free and it has been key to improving his health.

Daniel told Ivanhoe, "When I lay down at night, I'd have asthma symptoms or I would have repeated migraines and get eat infections repeatedly."

Paul Daniel has sliced pizza and pasta from his diet, and is feeling a lot better.

Daniel said, "I eat a lot more rice and Indian dishes now."

People with wheat allergies and especially celiac disease cannot tolerate the protein gluten. That is because it damages parts of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. A person can become malnourished, no matter how much food they eat. This can mean a lot of stomach pains.

Amanda S. Holiday MS, RD, LDN, registered dietician at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told Ivanhoe, "We're seeing more people come to us going gluten-free not because they have been diagnosed with celiac, but they are presenting with other medical conditions [like], joint pain, eczema, [and] unexplained pain."

In the meantime, gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean eliminating your favorite foods. Pizza is still game, for example, one recipe is made from potato tapioca millet and cornstarch.

Holliday explained to Ivanhoe, "There are more grains that are gluten-free than those that have gluten. The typical American diet [just] doesn't know about them."

So even though Paul Daniel is cutting out gluten, he is now opening up opportunities to try new tastes.

Some dieticians warn that gluten-free products are made with refined, unenriched grains and starches, which contain plenty of calories but very few vitamins or mineral.

Some studies have found that gluten-free diets can be seriously nutrient-deficient, and low in fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, vitamin b12, phosphorus and zinc.

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