On a gluten-free diet, you do not eat wheat, rye, and barley. These foods contain gluten, a type of protein. A gluten-free diet is the main treatment for celiac disease. Some people believe a gluten-free diet can also help improve other health problems, but there is little research to support this idea.
Reasons to Avoid Gluten
People follow a gluten-free diet for a number of reasons:
Celiac disease. People with this condition cannot eat gluten because it triggers an immune response that damages the lining of their GI tract. This response causes inflammation in the small intestine and makes it hard for the body to absorb nutrients in food. Symptoms include bloating, constipation, and diarrhea.
Gluten sensitivity. People with gluten sensitivity do not have celiac disease. Eating gluten causes many of the same symptoms as in celiac disease, without the stomach damage.
Gluten intolerance. This describes people who have symptoms and may or may not have celiac disease. Symptoms include cramping, bloating, nausea, and diarrhea.
If you have one of these conditions, a gluten-free diet will help control your symptoms. It also helps prevent health problems in people with celiac disease. If you suspect you have one of these conditions, talk with your health care provider before making any diet changes.