Featured Media Resource: VIDEO: What the Heck Is Gluten? (AsapSCIENCE)
Learn about gluten and its effects on people with celiac disease.

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Do you think a gluten-free diet is beneficial to health, even without celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten? #DoNowUGluten

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Learn More about Gluten

Bread made with wheat contains gluten. traaf/Flickr
Bread made with wheat contains gluten.

Do you make a point of eating gluten-free foods? According to the Institute of Food Technologists, “gluten is a protein that naturally occurs in a number of grains such as wheat, triticale, barley, rye and oats.” Gluten is actually a large protein formed from two smaller proteins, glutenin and gliadin. Gluten is formed when the two smaller proteins are hydrated and join together to form a new protein. It is responsible for giving bread its chewy texture and can be found in a wide variety of foods including everything from salad dressing to beer.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat. Matt Lavin/Flickr
Gluten is a protein found in wheat.

For some people, going gluten-free is an absolute necessity. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the body’s ability to process gluten; the body mounts an immune response that attacks and damages the small intestine, preventing it from absorbing nutrients. About 1 percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease. Some people who do not test positive for celiac disease still experience gluten sensitivity. While not an autoimmune disorder, people with gluten sensitivity may have gastrointestinal symptoms similar to those with celiac disease.

In recent years, a gluten-free diet has become popular among people trying to improve their overall health status without the diagnosis of celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten. Some first-person testimonials suggest that removing gluten from one’s diet can improve digestion, facial acne and headaches. Like cholesterol in the 1980s and fat in the 1990s, gluten has been described as “latest dietary villain, blamed for everything from forgetfulness to joint pain to weight gain.” Some people argue that it is not the removal of gluten from one’s diet that makes it healthy, but rather that the gluten-free diet promotes an overall conscious awareness of what is being ingested. There are health risks associated with a gluten-free diet for people who do not have celiac disease, including a decreased intake of vitamins and minerals, or an increased intake of calories, which can lead to weight gain. The increasing popularity of a gluten-free diet is evident in the number of gluten-free products now available to purchase, but the reasons behind ditching the protein are not quite as clear.

Do you think eating little or no gluten is beneficial to one’s health, even without celiac disease or a sensitivity to gluten?

More Resources

ARTICLE: University of Wisconsin- Madison, School of Medicine and Public Health
The Reality Behind Gluten-Free Diets

This article outlines what celiac disease is, the reality behind gluten-free diet claims, and the risks of a gluten-free diet.

WEBSITE: National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Celiac Disease

This informational website explains celiac disease, and its symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.

Sensitive to Gluten? A Carb in Wheat May Be the Real Culprit

Gastroenterologists say sensitivity to a group of carbohydrates, called FODMAPs, may be mistaken for gluten sensitivity.

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This post was written by students majoring in nutrition at Lipscomb University.

KQED Do Now U is a bi-weekly activity in collaboration with SENCER. SENCER is a community of transformation that consists of educators and administrators in the higher and informal education sectors. SENCER aims to create an intelligent, educated, and empowered citizenry through advancing knowledge in the STEM fields and beyond. SENCER courses show students the direct connections between subject content and the real world issues they care about, and invite students to use these connections to solve today’s most pressing problems.

Is a Gluten-Free Diet Beneficial to Your Health? 14 July,2017SENCER

  • Michelle Sosnowski

    Like the introduction alluded to, the benefits for some people to maintain a gluten free diet even without having Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, is the fact that it often constitutes a greater awareness of overall consumption. In this way, if a person consumes more fruit, vegetables and less processed food because of it, a gluten free diet can be extremely beneficial. That said, I think anyone considering to go gluten free needs to conduct adequate research before deciding to make the switch. As long as a person replaces gluten-free whole grains with the ones they have been consuming, and ensures they are consuming all other necessary nutrients that may be lost through the discontinued consumption of gluten, I believe the diet can be beneficial.

    A newer development to this topic is the fact that it has grown so much in popularity. With its growth, more and more products have gluten free options. While the fact that a person can now find a beyond-delicious gluten free chocolate chip cookie is exciting, it means that it is easier for people to simply replace their processed foods that do contain gluten, with empty calories and simple carbohydrates that no longer contain the protein. For people who have not been diagnosed with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity, their main concern should be eating a healthy diet. If going gluten free helps them achieve that purpose, then the diet has potential for benefit.

  • Abigail Jones

    I believe that it is great to be aware of what foods contain gluten and how the consumption of gluten in the diet can effect those with a gluten intolerance. Also, I think that it is awesome to be aware of the foods that you put into your body, but I personally would not choose to strictly cut all gluten out of my diet if I did not have a gluten intolerance. If someone did want to go on a gluten free diet, then it would be important to do adequate research on the subject before denying your body certain foods.

  • Caroline Ward

    I do not think that eating little or no gluten is beneficial to our health. I think that gluten should not be removed from your diet. Unless you are allergic to gluten or have Celiac disease, I think that a gluten-free diet is not necessary. I think that anyone who chooses to go gluten-free should make sure that they are still are consuming the nutrients they might have lost from removing gluten from their diet.

  • Nadine Wong

    Thank you for very interesting post! Thanks it I knew a lot about gluten diet.

  • Lauren Mecum

    I think society and the health industry has made gluten look like the devil, when really it’s what kinds of food we are putting into our body, not gluten itself. Eating gluten free does not mean that you are healthier than someone who eats gluten, because there is just as much packaged and processed gluten free products as there are other regular processed products. Instead of eating gluten free, we should look to cut out processed foods with our diet and substitute with whole plant based foods. A lot of plant based foods and grains like quinoa, buckwheat, and brown rice are gluten free. People should be focused on eating more naturally occurring foods, which tend to not have gluten. We should still eat gluten and can enjoy sweets on occasion, because most people are not even allergic to gluten. Gluten is really not harmful to our health, but rather just the type of foods we are consuming. People need to look to nourish their bodies and treat them well by giving them whole foods, instead of cutting out gluten as a fad diet trend.

  • Aryn Collier

    I do not think it is advisable for those who do not have celiac’s disease nor gluten intolerance to eliminate gluten from the diet. By unnecessarily removing gluten, people are also cutting out common and nutritious foods from the diet and placing themselves at higher risk of nutritional deficiencies.

  • Erin Self

    I have to agree that removing gluten from the diet without necessity is probably not a great idea. I can see why a lot of people may think that making this transition in their diet can lead to some positive results since gluten is in a lot of foods–even some unhealthy ones. So by eliminating gluten altogether people will eliminate those unhealthy foods. However, they could also be losing a large amount of vitamins and nutrients that their bodies need and won’t get otherwise. In short, I think that gluten should only be avoided if completely necessary.

    • Allison

      I agree with you because some people are who aren’t allergic to gluten the first place would be substituting the gluten with more sugar and more fat, which could cause them to gain weight. #DoNowUGluten #HCW1516

  • CB

    Three of the people in my family are allergic to or have a sensitivity to wheat and gluten. I sometimes eat items with no gluten, but try not to eliminate it from my daily diet. I understand why people might think removing gluten from their diet is healthy, but they probably don’t know all the vitamins and minerals they can lose, or that they could be having a greater intake of fat and sugar. My family members and i all agree, there’s are plenty of options to eat healthy other than get rid of wheat and gluten.

  • Fatima Javed

    I think gluten free diet is better in my opinion in general because removing gluten in the diet helps with digestion, acne and headaches and weight loss. fatima javed

  • M Eickenhorst

    Though each person is different and one diet may work better on one person as compared to another person. So I think it would just depend on the person.

  • Andy M

    I have always had a sensitive digestion my whole life. I never knew people did not have the trouble I had. Eventually it got worse and worse, even when I mentioned it to a physician I rarely could say if “something” had caused it, because I ate “healthy”, and I ate the foods that were recommended for good nutrition. I never saw a physician that seemed to think it was a problem. Over years I removed dairy, then wheat, eggs, and all onion family foods, I always avoided beans, and just did not enjoy eating a few others. I am now so sensitive to these that I can rarely go out to eat, even garlic in dressing or marinade bothers me. It is only recently that read about FODMAP foods, the list reads a lot like my “avoidance” list. I think its sad that so few Doctors have enough background in nutrition to notice when their patients have a problem.

  • Hope

    I think that people should be able to eat what they want without passing judgment, but personally, I do think that a gluten free diet has many health benefits even for people who do not necessarily need to be gluten free. My sister was diagnosed with an ovarian (hormonal) disease and was told that she couldn’t have children. But after changing her diet greatly (including going gluten-free), she got pregnant, to which she blames the change in her diet. Gluten does have an effect on hormone levels, digestion, and other body processes, and I think it can be beneficial to anyone who wants to be healthier. #DoNowUGluten

  • Paizley Wilburn

    I think that the results of a gluten-free diet depends upon the person and his/her body. It also depends on what types of gluten-free foods the person is eating, and if he/she is eating enough fruits, veggies, and taking vitamins. Many gluten-free products can be high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates. They can lack vitamins, minerals, and essentials nutrients that your body needs. Going gluten-free can actually make you gain weight, or become ill from the lack of vitamins and increased carbohydrates. If you decide to go gluten-free you are going to have to make changes to every aspect of your diet, and experiment with different types of food to see what works best for your health. In my opinion, I do not think that going gluten-free is beneficial to your health unless you have celiac disease. I personally would not go gluten-free unless I had to.

  • C. Harrison

    I would not recommend the average person who does not have Celiac disease or food sensitivities go on a gluten free diet. It is a very restrictive and expensive diet. Most Americans are not getting enough Fiber and certain nutrients daily. Removing an entire food group and processed food products that are fortified could lead to nutritional deficiencies and create medical issues later on. If you are knowledgeable about the diet and can meet the daily requirements for fiber and vitamins then I think one could try it. Other then the possibility of getting clear skin and reducing headaches there are no additional health benefits to a gluten free diet.

  • Christopher Long

    a Jug of Liquid…. thats what we have?

  • Ashlie Marroquin

    I personally believe that a gluten-free diet should only be for those who really are in need of it. As in the video, it stated that bread and other items contain gluten but that’s not the only thing it contains, it also has many other nutrients and vitamins that are necessary. If we cut out these vitamins and nutrients, what could potentially happen? Well, mutations can occur in your cells, which then can potentially cause detrimental effects. We do not want that to happen. A gluten free diet is specifically for those who can not break down gluten and thus is why they need a specific diet if not they will be harming their own self causing potentially major damage. Taking away gluten as a whole does not necessarily mean that one will lose weight or be healthier, on the other hand if you really need this specific diet then yes, it will be helpful for you. At the end of the day, it depend on the specific person whether or not they want to go gluten free, but first should always research the effects of being on a gluten free diet if not needed. #DoUNowGluten

  • Rossnellis Gonzalez

    I belive a gluten free diet is best for those that indeed need it. People who suffer from Celiac Disease and those that suffer from food sensitivity should be having a gluten free diet. For those that are normals as we say should stay away from a gluten free diet, it was mentioned in the video that “gluten is a protein that naturally occurs in a number of grains such as wheat, triticale, barley, rye and oats.”. Gluten in the reason why bread is chewy and we use gluten in most of all of our foods. Those that decided to do the gluten free diet will end up failing because is really not healthy for you, you are loosing the chance to get some vitamins and minerals , and also you are definitely not eating a lot health’s. When a food is gluten free is usually made up of more fat and sugar which defiantly beats the odds of you attempting to eat healthier and be more fit. So I strongly believe our society is not fully educated on the whole Gluten Free diet, because for those that have no choice but to be on it are also lacking vitamins but is because their body will refuse to let them have gluten in their system. Is more of a war, either you eat gluten and destroy your smaller intestine or do your gluten free diet and get your extra vitamins and minerals another way. #donowUgluten

  • Diadem Joy

    In my opinion, if you can intake gluten without suffering from a major nutritional deficiencies, I’d say go for it. What’s there to lose? To top that, gluten-free diet is expensive, if consuming gluten does not harm our health, why go to the expensive route when food that contains gluten also contains nutrients and vitamins? Sure, you can gain these two items from food without gluten (not gluten-free), but it still won’t hurt to eat them from time to time. And what’s there to hate about normal bread, they taste so much better than gluten-free bread. 🙂

  • Joe Kerridge

    Until more proof supporting the ill affects of gluten is substantiated, I believe we have to go by what we know now: not eating can sometimes be worse for your health. Many unhealthy ingredients can be added to foods to replace gluten, and really if you don’t have a health problem with digesting gluten it makes no sense to be gluten free, unless you like the food better which would be very surprising, but to each their own.

  • Caitlin Plocheck

    I think that gluten should be a part of your diet unless you have Celiac disease or it upsets your stomach, because it does have very important nutrients that we need in our diets. What most people do not realize is the amount of supplements you would need to intake if you remove gluten from your diet. When we think about dieting, it should have nothing to do with going “gluten free”, we should focus more on things like more good fats and less bad fats, getting whole grains and eating fruits and vegetables. #DoNowUGluten

  • Julia Cafaro

    Part of the issue is that EVERYTHING contains gluten now! Things that absolute should not ever contain gluten, such as: salad dressing, pasta sauces, mayo, ketchup, chili spice mixes….I could really go on! It is because of this that I (and many others) strongly feel that we have so much gluten issues now. Some gluten on occasion for people with no health issues is fine. However, the super refined gluten of today is still one of the worst things you can eat on a regular basis because all the aspects of the grain that make it easy for your body to digest have been stripped away. This causes inflammation in your body. You may not readily see it, but it is happening. I knew for years that I had a sensitivity, but still ate it sometimes. However, after being diagnosed with MS in September, I make a very strong effort to stay away from it entirely. It wrecks havoc on my body when I eat too much or even too much grain in general. Like all things in life you should show moderation!

  • Elena S

    I definitely do not think that a gluten free diet is the best option for those who aren’t having their insides destroyed by it. I personally went through I time where something I was eating was making me feel incredibly sick, and tried cutting out gluten because I kept hearing how terrible it is for your body and that it’s not something humans should eat anyway. I ended up feeling even worse after a while because, like the video stated, I was really missing some of the essential vitamins and nutrients I should’ve been getting. It was also dairy that was trying to kill me anyway. That said, I certainly support the growing market of gluten free offerings as I know multiple people with celiacs, so the ever growing availability of those foods, as well as the increased desire to actually make them taste good, is really incredible. So in all, I really think that a gluten free diet is not the best choice for those who don’t have to choose it, there are much better and much healthier options available than completely removing such a huge part of what is eaten.

  • Lenita

    Today there is a lot of variety of gluten free food to choose from, but those can be quite expensive. At the same time, if you have any level sensitivities to gluten, keeping track of the amount of gluten you intake is important to avoid all sorts of discomforts. To some people eating gluten-free or just less gluten is a trend or a diet but for others it is essential to their well being.

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