Although many Americans have chosen to forgo gluten in their diets, a gluten-free diet is first and foremost a treatment for celiac disease, a chronic autoimmune disease where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.
According to a study done by the Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health, about 1 in 141 people in the U.S. have celiac disease. However, many medical and nutritional experts believe that the number of people with undiagnosed gluten sensitivity is potentially much higher. The Celiac Disease Foundation estimates that 2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.
Millions of people around the world have eliminated gluten from their diets and have reported an elimination of subclinical symptoms of poor health they didn’t even realize they had. Bloating and gas after meals disappearing; brain fog that hit every afternoon suddenly lifting; going from several mild colds each year to zero for years; dramatic improvements in acne conditions without drugs; elimination of migraines; and much more.
However, going gluten-free and eliminating wheat may also cause you to become deficient in the micronutrients— vitamins and minerals— that would be delivered in wheat. In studies, gluten-free diets have been found to fall short in vitamins A & D, all the B vitamins, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and zinc. The good news is that these deficiencies can easily be replenished through a well-formulated multivitamin.
Gluten-free dieters are not the only ones that need to be aware of how their dietary choices are leading to deficiencies in their essential micronutrients. I’ve found that most diets— including low-calorie, vegetarian, Paleo, and DASH— are not providing sufficient micronutrients by food alone. I believe that supplementation, such as a daily vitamin, is key to avoiding nutrient deficiencies and any problems they might cause.
For people who have celiac disease, avoiding gluten is important, as they could experience abdominal pain and diarrhea. Even trace amounts of gluten may damage the small intestines.
Mira Calton, CN is a licensed certified nutritionist, co-founder of Calton Nutrition and co-author of “Naked Calories” & “Rich Food Poor Food.” Calton is a fellow of the American Association of Integrative Medicine, diplomate of the College of Clinical Nutrition, a certified personal fitness chef and is board certified in Integrative Health.