What's Going On With Gluten? 4 Myths Busted
Myth #1: You're better off reducing or eliminating gluten.
No! Gluten is not bad for you unless it is. Sounds crazy, but gluten is bad only for people who can't tolerate it. If you have no issues from eating gluten— bloating and abdominal pain, for instance—you shouldn't give it up. A gluten-free diet can lead to other dietary woes: It can lack nutrients like B vitamins, calcium, iron, zinc, magnesium, and fiber. And some new gluten-free replacement foods can contain highly processed refined carbohydrates—rice flour, cornstarch, potato starch, and tapioca starch—that our bodies convert to sugar.
Myth #2: Going gluten-free is a good way to lose weight.
You figure if you give up all those starchy carbs, you'll give up calories, too, right? Not really: If you replace bread and pasta with gluten-free versions, you may even be adding calories because of some ingredients often used in gluten-free baked goods.
Myth #3: You can diagnose gluten sensitivity through blood, saliva, or other tests.
The only way to determine gluten sensitivity is through process of elimination. Methodically eliminate items from your diet, and if you feel better, stay away from them. To really test out which ones bother you, and to understand what quantity you can and can't tolerate, try slowly reintroducing suspects into your diet. (There is a blood test for celiac disease, though; see facing page.)
Myth #4: The increase in gluten sensitivity and celiac disease is because wheat is grown differently now.
This popular myth has been scientifically discounted by a number of studies, but it persists. Other theories, such as the use of a popular additive called "vital wheat gluten," and our overall increase in the amount of wheat we eat, are being researched. Another reason we hear more about celiac then ever before is that it's better diagnosed than in the past. Most people with the disease don't realize it until increasingly serious gut-clenching incidents. That's changing, and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (celiaccentral.org) predicts that by 2019, diagnoses might jump from the current level of 17 percent to more than half of cases.
How do you know if you have celiac disease?
Many celiac symptoms are similar to those of gluten sensitivity—including bloating and abdominal pain, skin rash, and more. But a simple blood test can determine if you truly have celiac. It's important to know, because if you do have the autoimmune disease, even small amounts of gluten can cause severe problems. Talk to your doctor, but don't go gluten-free before the test—that could skew your results.
This article originally appeared in Allrecipes magazine.