Allergic to wheat: Is gluten good or bad for you?

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Glutino cereal and other gluten free products appear on grocery stores shelves in America. Madison Sirabella ’14

Glutino cereal and other gluten free products appear on grocery stores shelves in America.
Madison Sirabella ’14

In supermarkets across America there has been a dramatic increase in the availability of gluten free products.  While many feel a gluten free diet promotes health benefits, others feel that the diet is just another trend and actually has no health benefits whatsoever.
Gluten is a substance present in cereals, grains and especially wheat, which is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. A person’s body can react unfavorably to gluten if he or she has a sensitivity to gluten, or celiac disease. Having a gluten sensitivity will trigger an allergic reaction when ingesting products containing gluten. Celiac disease triggers hypersensitivity in the small intestine. This eventually causes an inability to eat any foods that contain gluten.
Today there are approximately 18 million Americans that follow a gluten free diet. Of these 18 million people, 15 million have a gluten sensitivity and only three million have been diagnosed with celiac disease, according to Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network.
For those not suffering from a gluten sensitivity, there is a danger in following a gluten free diet. In fact a gluten free diet can rob the human body of much needed vitamins and nutrients such as, iron, vitamin B and fiber.
In a study conducted by Mintel, 53 of the 55 participants who were “on gluten-free diets,”  actually tested negative for celiac disease. This led researchers to estimate that 96 percent of people on gluten-free diets may not need to be on them, according to the Celiac Disease Health Center.
“Many people may just perceive that a gluten-free diet is healthier. In fact, it isn’t  For people with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is essential. But for others, unless people are very careful, a gluten-free diet can lack vitamins, minerals, and fiber,” Peter H.R. Green, MD, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University said.
At Convent of the Sacred Heart, students have tried this gluten free trend while not being diagnosed with any sensitivity to the substance.
Junior Christie Huchro, who is not diagnosed with celiac disease, was curious about this trend and eliminated gluten from her diet . While not practicing the diet anymore,her results were very positive.
“At first it was difficult to adjust to the new types of food, however after a few weeks I felt so much better and I didn’t even notice a difference. It made me feel a lot fresher and I had more energy for sports and studying,” Christie said. 
Junior Mimi Dunn, who suffers from celiac disease, expressed the frustrations that accompany actually having to be on this diet.
“Today, the hardest part for me is definitely making sure there is food I can eat,” Mimi said.  “I normally don’t have issues at restaurants or at home, but when I’m out with other people or just getting a snack on the go it can be tricky due to my dietary restrictions.”
 
– Madison Sirabella, Staff Writer