Gluten-Free: Fad Diet or Medical Necessity?


It wasn’t that long ago that following a gluten-free diet was a challenging and sometimes solitary experience. Make all your own meals. Cook from scratch. Avoid any foods made with barley, wheat and rye, or foods that may have been cross-contaminated with gluten.

Sound familiar? If you’re living with Celiac disease, you’re following a Gluten-Free diet as a matter of survival. Exposure to gluten could damage your small intestine, trigger a bout of serious digestive problems, and even raise the risk for diabetes and certain types of cancer.

The good news. It’s not as hard to follow a gluten-free diet as it used to be. An estimated 3 million people are living with Celiac disease, according to data published in the Journal of Gastroenterology. And more prepared foods and restaurant meals that are gluten-free are available than ever before. Check out these Gluten-Free meals made from fresh ingredients.

The bad news. Living a gluten-free lifestyle isn’t just for people with Celiac disease anymore. It’s also a fad diet promoted by people who don’t have Celiac disease, and in many cases don’t understand the impact even the smallest amount of gluten can have on your body and your health, according to a University of Calgary study.

And that means you need to be even more vigilant about gluten-free options available at the store or featured on a restaurant menu. Your definition of “gluten-free” may not be the same as the chef who prepared your food, or the manufacturer who processed and packaged that product with a “gluten-free” label.

There’s also a lot of misunderstanding about what gluten-free really means, says lead researcher James King. And that can leave you feeling frustrated when you grill a restaurant about their cooking practices or make a gluten-free request when you plan a meal with family or friends.

If you have Celiac disease, you’ve probably experienced both the good and bad of the current “gluten-free” fad diet. Take advantage of the gluten-free options now available, but do your homework to make sure it’s not going to have a negative impact on your health.