Gluten free diets have become increasingly popular over the past few years. Just a decade ago, gluten-intolerance levels were at 1 in 2500 worldwide. Today, it’s at 1 in 133.
While there are legitimate conditions that can hinder someone’s ability to digest gluten, some people are choosing to jump on the gluten free diet bandwagon because they think it’s a healthier
Helen Olmstead is the chapter president for the London Celiac Association. She says the association advises to not go gluten free unless prescribed by a doctor.
“It can be expensive. A gluten free loaf of bread will cost $6 or $7, as opposed to $2.50. The other part of it is a totally gluten free diet is lacking in fibre, and you’ve got to worry about iron.”
Olmstead adds that if you are losing weight by being on a gluten free diet, it isn’t because the substitute food is healthy, it’s because you aren’t eating as many carbs or fast food.
However, some people do need to make the lifestyle change and fix their food intake.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that convinces the body that gluten is a foreign body, and attacks. Olmstead says there are many different types of symptoms someone can experience.
“You can be nauseous. You can have diarrhea, constipation, or both. You can get headaches. You can have infertility. You can be anemic. So there’s a whole pile of different symptoms, which often means that doctors don’t think about celiac disease.”
She adds that there is a difference between having celiac disease, and just simply having an intolerance towards gluten.
“Anyone with celiac disease who ingests gluten are damaging their gut on a regular basis. With gluten intolerance, they may experience some of the same symptoms, but they aren’t actually damaging their gut.”
Recognizing that transitioning into a completely gluten free diet is expensive, once someone is diagnosed with celiac disease, the government compensates some of the money. But being officially diagnosed is a tolling process, which takes months to complete.
Darby Watterworth has celiac disease, and thinks there are a few things we need to change as a society.
“In order to prove to the government that I actually have the disease so they can give me money back to compensate needing to buy gluten free food, I have to get a test to certify it. And in order to do the test, I have to eat gluten for 4 months.”
She says that doing so comes at a great cost to her, since ingesting any small amount of gluten causes extreme pain.
If you’re looking for a new healthy diet, going gluten free should only be the right choice if you can’t digest it.