Written by Mita Majumdar, M.Sc. | 
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nithin Jayan, MBBS, DNB on Sep 20, 2018

Benefits of Gluten-free Diet

Gluten free diet is more than just a fad diet for weight loss and has a number of health benefits.

Celiac Disease:

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that manifests itself primarily in the small intestine and is triggered by ingestion of gluten from wheat, barley or rye protein. Whether oats are also considered gluten food is still debated in the scientific community. The disease normally begins in infancy with symptoms becoming obvious within months of starting a gluten-containing diet (cereals). Chronic diarrhea, vomiting, a distended abdomen and failure to thrive are common symptoms in children, while in adults the symptoms are diarrhea, weight loss and general weakness.

Gluten free diet is thus an obvious choice as a treatment method for the disease. However, it has been observed that foods that are claimed to be gluten-free and even naturally occurring gluten-free foods do actually contain some amount of gluten. This seems to be alright though because studies conducted over many years have demonstrated that diets containing small amounts of gluten lead to healing of the intestinal mucosa. Therefore, maximum daily intake of 10 to 100mg of gluten wont cause harm.

Dermatitis Herpetiformis:

Also called DH, this is a chronic intensely itchy skin eruption. The DH is actually an allergy to gluten, occurring more commonly in men and especially in Europe. Gluten in the diet combines with IgA, and together they enter the blood stream and clog up the small blood vessels in the skin causing the rash. Gluten free diet is one of the treatment methods for the condition.

Obesity and Insulin Resistance:

A gluten free diet is also helpful for weight loss. A Brazilian study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry indicated that gluten free diets could be beneficial in reducing weight gain, inflammation and insulin resistance, which acts by increasing the activity of certain proteins associated with fat breakdown and fatty acid oxidation.

Autism

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Although there is insufficient scientific evidence of gluten free diet as treatment for autism, observational studies have found that gluten free diet could indeed be helpful to some people with autism. Given the fact that children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can be classified under various subpopulations based on factors including gastrointestinal disorders and immune function, ASD children with GI symptoms, food allergy diagnoses, and suspected food sensitivities showed greater benefit with gluten free diet, found researchers at Department of Biobehavioral Health, The Pennsylvania State University, USA.

Endometriosis Pain

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Endometriosis is a disorder where the tissue (endometrium) that lines the inside of the uterus starts growing outside the uterus, sometimes beyond the pelvic region. The disorder causes severe pain. Research shows that gluten free diet could help decrease pelvic pain associated with endometriosis. In their study, researchers from Italy found that 75 percent of the 156 patients studied reported statistically significant decrease in painful symptoms after a year of taking gluten free diet.

References:

  1. Nutrition and healthy eating - (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/gluten-free-diet/art-20048530?reDate=20092018)
  2. Gluten-free diet reduces adiposity, inflammation and insulin resistance associated with the induction of PPAR-alpha and PPAR-gamma expression - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23253599)
  3. Effectiveness of the gluten-free, casein-free diet for children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder: based on parental report - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22564339)
  4. Gluten-free diet: a new strategy for management of painful endometriosis related symptoms? - (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23334113)


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