These days, it’s hard not to hear about gluten. You probably know someone on a gluten-free diet.
Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains, including barley, rye and oats. People on such a diet abstain from most breads, crackers, breakfast cereals, conventional pastas, pastry goods, and a wide range of processed foods made with small amounts of gluten.
Why go on a gluten-free diet? If you have celiac disease, it’s necessary, health experts say. That condition, caused by an abnormal response to gluten, can damage the lining of the small intestine, preventing important nutrients from being absorbed. There are more than 200 symptoms associated with celiac disease, which makes diagnosis difficult. A significant percentage of people with celiac disease, both adults and children, have no or minimal symptoms.
Only about one percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease. If you don’t have the condition, then a gluten-free diet may be harmful to you, health experts say. That’s because the diet can lack the necessary vitamins, minerals and fiber needed for you to stay healthy.