Gluten or wheat free foods are receiving a lot of attention. Some people are going gluten free as a way to lose weight. Others have an allergy to gluten. There is a big difference between these two groups.

Gluten Free by Choice

Some choose no wheat or no flour as a way to lose weight. This encourages giving up cake, cookies, white flour, white bread and often sugar too. Most dietitians would agree that eating less cake, cookies, white bread and sugar is a great way to start losing weight. However, giving up all flour products also means giving up the benefits of B-vitamins, protein and antioxidants in whole grain/whole wheat products. Whole grains have been found to reduce heart disease, constipation, and help with weight loss.

Gluten Allergy

People with gluten or wheat free allergies need to avoid all gluten and wheat. This goes beyond choice—even a trace of gluten or wheat can damage the intestine of a person with a gluten or wheat allergy causing diarrhea and weight loss. Gluten allergy is also called celiac disease and the treatment is a lifelong zero tolerance gluten diet. This involves a long process of looking through food labels and medications to ensure all are gluten free. Symptoms include chronic diarrhea, weight loss, bloating of the stomach, cramping and gas.  A blood test and intestinal biopsy confirm celiac disease.

Bottom Line

If you have a friend with a no gluten, no wheat diet, ask if it is by choice or an allergy. If it is an allergy, read all food labels especially condiments, condensed soups, and seasonings. Buy gluten free foods when possible. If it is gluten or wheat free by choice, ask if they avoid white flour or will eat whole grain/whole wheat products. If you have symptoms of diarrhea, weight loss, bloating, cramping or gas or have a close relative diagnosed with celiac disease, talk to your doctor.

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