As the “gluten-free” diet fad continues to attract attention from non-Celiacs, it raises the importance of understanding why there has been so much confusion around the healthfulness of wheat-based food products.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune reaction to gluten, a natural protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Many whole grains and whole wheats that contain gluten also contain special nutrients. They’re rich in an array of vitamins and minerals, such as B vitamins, iron and fiber. Studies show that whole wheat foods, as part of a healthy diet, may help lower risk of heart disease, type-2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer.
It’s not recommended to self-test with a gluten-free diet. Most people who try gluten-free diets on their own miss out on key nutrients, like iron and B vitamins found in wheat.
If you suspect you have some intolerance to gluten, it’s important to get tested for celiac disease. A blood test for antibodies is the first step. If the test is positive, the next step is to get a biopsy of the lining of the small intestine. If the antibody test is positive, that increases the probability of having the disease ten-fold.
Two out of three patients with a positive test won’t have the disease, therefore a biopsy is necessary because the antibodies test is not a solid basis to make a diagnosis and put someone on a gluten-free diet. A negative antibody test reduces the chance of having celiac tenfold. Odds go from one-in-30 to one-in-300.
A biopsy is a definitive test as long as the patient is not already on a gluten-free diet. If the person is, the biopsy and blood test may not see signs of celiac.
People could have other diseases like Crohn’s disease, peptic ulcer disease or colon cancer, which could go untreated while the patient focuses on avoiding gluten and depriving themselves from nutrients difficult to find outside of whole wheat and grains such as fiber and B vitamins.
Health professionals encourage patients to get tested for celiac disease before cutting gluten from their diet.
“Keep in mind, the purpose of this blog is solely educational. The information included in this blog is not a substitute for professional medical advice, examination, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider before altering your diet, changing your exercise regimen, starting any new treatment or making changes to existing treatment”.
The Word on Wheat Blog is partnering with Hy-Vee Registered Dietician, Holly Ellison. Holly is a Registered Dietitian and Licensed Dietitian at Hy-Vee grocery store in Mankato, Minn. and will be a regular contributor to the blog and will share fun facts about food, health and wellness tips and delicious recipes.