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Gluten-free Diet: not always the answer and watch for definition on labels

gluten free diet

Traveling through the grocery store looks very different nowadays. It is hard to deny the observation of an increase in products labeled "gluten-free" in each aisle. Products have been developed and have made the gluten free industry a multi million dollar beast. Be careful with labels and look for these gluten free definition on food labeling.


Gluten sensitivities, intolerances, and wheat allergies are on the rise but the major reason is the rise of diagnosed celiac disease. According to the FDA, there is an estimated 3 million people in the United States that have been diagnosed with celiac disease. Celiac disease is defined as a permanent sensitivity to gluten in wheat and its related proteins; barley and rye. Even though celiac disease has been more and more diagnosed, there seems to be a lag between a confirmed diagnosis and the onset of initial symptoms.

One of the reasons, unfortunately, is the mirrored symptoms of other gastrointestinal diseases, such as Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative colitis, or diverticulitis. Celiac disease, having so many symptoms including diarrhea, weight loss, vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation, and the other gastrointestinal symptoms make it extremely hard for a medical practitioner to accurately diagnose a gluten intolerance culprit. This makes it exceptionally more difficult for diagnosis in children.

Also see: 12 Common Nutrient Deficiencies in the Gluten Free Diet

Although the clinical features of celiac disease are different for each patient, most patient’s chief complaint is abdominal pain. Complaints of a decrease in appetite, feelings of nausea, frequent bouts of vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, bloating, weight loss that cannot be explained and stools that can float or have a foul smell can also be present. A person with celiac disease tend to bruise more easily most likely due to the inability to absorb important vitamins and minerals. A feeling of fatigue, depressed attitude, hair loss, itchy skin, mouth ulcers, and the list can go on of ailments with patients having gluten intolerance.

As another reported article states, a strict gluten free diet is currently the only treatment for celiac disease patients and in addition to helping symptoms, staying on a gluten free diet has proven to lesson malignant changes in ones gastrointestinal tract and has helped decrease findings of other medical issues.

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If celiac disease is left untreated, however, at times, one can eventually decrease absorption of nutrients and can cause vitamin deficiencies that may deprive the brain, nervous system, bones, and liver. One must only go on a gluten free diet only if absolutely necessary and education is key in making sure that all nutrients and vitamins continue to be properly absorbed through the diet. If nutritional deficiencies are present, the recommended supplements of calcium, folate, iron, vitamin B-12, Vitamin D, and Vitamin K may be prescribed.

The general consensus by medical professionals is that to follow a gluten free diet, one must really educate themselves in making sure that they properly obtain the optimal diet. For any person diagnosed with celiac disease, a visit to a registered dietician or nutritionist is absolutely critical. Even after the visits to a medical professional, the patient should always stay up to date on recipes, reading labels, and maintaining a beneficial diet. There are great resources for following a gluten-free diet and the one that I would highly recommend is a magazine that caters to celiac patients and patients living with food allergies called “Gluten-free and More”. http://www.glutenfreeandmore.com/ There are also websites helping celiac patients safely eat at restaurants which is extremely helpful.

Ingredients, Gluten-Free Labeling Shouldn't Contain

On August 2, 2013, FDA proposed a defining term of “gluten free” to mean that a food bearing this claim in its labeling does not contain any of the following:

  1. An ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains.
  2. An ingredient that is derived from a prohibited grain that has not been processed to remove gluten.
  3. An ingredient that is derived from a prohibited grain that has been processed to remove gluten, if the use of that ingredient results in the presence of 20 parts per million (ppm) or more gluten in the food
  4. 20 ppm or more of gluten

Failure to comply with FDA regulations will result in regulatory actions.

You can see that companies are jumping on board the “gluten-free” train each and every day and with this comes an increase of selections of different food choices for those that suffer from an uncomfortable, however, treatable disease. I would advise caution, however, without a proper diagnosis of celiac disease.