Dietitian explains gluten-free diet and who should try it

Ask the Expert

GREENVILLE, S.C. (WSPA) – Many are looking for ways to boost their immune systems, so registered dietitians are reminding people to make sure they’re getting enough nutrients from their food.

Clinical dietitian Jalak Patel says she’s noticed a growing trend: people ditching grains for a gluten free diet without first getting permission from a doctor or registered dietitian.

“They should ask someone who’s skilled in helping them to figure out is it truly a gluten issue, or is there something else going on,” she said. “It can be figured out with elimination diets.”

Gluten is a protein found in many wheat, barley and rye products. A 2016 Clinical Nutrition study shows gluten is an important part of a normal diet, and said eliminating it from your diet may cause improper nutrition.

“Patients who are following a gluten-free diet are missing out on essential vitamins and minerals including calcium, Vitamin D, iron, fiber, zinc and magnesium,” Patel said.

She stressed that the people who should be eliminating gluten from their diets are those with celiac disease, which causes an autoimmune response to gluten with a multitude of symptoms.

Symptoms of celiac disease include bloating, gas, abdominal pain, diarrhea, constipation as well as non gastro-intestinal issues like fatigue, body pain, eczema, psoriasis.

Patel said those diagnosed with non-celiac gluten sensitivities should avoid it as well, even though they are not allergic to gluten, but do have similar symptoms.

“We actually don’t know if it’s the gluten they’re sensitive to or a protein in wheat,” she explained. “Wheat actually has multiple types of proteins, its not just gluten.”

If you are experiencing some discomfort after eating large quantities of bread, grains or other foods with gluten, Patel said it is possible you may be eating too much gluten.

“Cutting back may be the answer instead of completely eliminating it,” she said, however she urged people who suspect they may have gluten insensitivities to start by keeping a food log of what you are eating and the symptoms you are noticing.

If you still suspect a gluten intolerance, before making any changes to your diet, she stresses the need to consult a primary care physician or registered dietitian.

“The can do bloodwork and other testing… a gastroenterologist can do an upper endoscopy where they can biopsy the tissue and actually confirm a diagnoses of celiac,” she said.

For more information on celiac disease, click here.

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