Gluten-free diet not healthy for everyone

(CNN)There was a time when gluten, a mixture of proteins found in wheat, rye and barley, was something of a foreign term. Not many people had heard of it, and the few who needed to avoid it found meals to be extremely challenging. Today, I hear the word «gluten» on a daily basis, but mostly as a food component to be avoided at all costs. In fact, according to late-night host Jimmy Kimmel, it seems that «in Los Angeles, gluten is comparable to Satanism.» But is banning gluten from your diet really a wise health decision? «That’s the $64,000 question that everyone is asking,» said Shelley Case, a registered dietitian, expert on the gluten-free diet and author of «Gluten Free: The Definitive Resource Guide.» «The answer is, not everyone benefits from going gluten-free, despite the fact that celebrities and athletes say it will cure anything that ails you.»Who needs to go gluten-freeA gluten-free diet is designed specifically for those with celiac disease and a condition known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, Case explained. Read MoreWhen gluten is consumed in people with celiac disease, it triggers an immune response that damages the lining of the small intestine, which affects the ability of the intestine to absorb nutrients, including carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals. When nutrients are not properly absorbed, deficiencies can result, causing anemia, osteoporosis, weight loss and other complications. Following a gluten-free diet allows the intestine to heal; nutrients are absorbed, and symptoms such as abdominal pain, bloating, fatigue and diarrhea or constipation resolve over time.Gluten-free diets: Where do we stand?»Medical nutrition therapy with a gluten-free diet is the only treatment that will work for celiac disease, and if people don’t follow it strictly, they can have all kinds of complications,» said Case, who has celiac disease and avoids gluten-containing foods. People with non-celiac gluten sensitivity may have trouble digesting gluten and have similar symptoms to those with celiac disease, but they lack the antibodies and intestinal damage seen in celiac disease, according to Case. They also benefit by following a gluten-free diet to alleviate symptoms, which may also include headaches, fatigue and joint pain in addition to gastrointestinal problems similar to those of celiac disease. The definitive test for diagnosing celiac disease is a small intestinal biopsy in which multiple samples are taken from the small intestine. But it’s important to avoid going on a gluten-free diet until tests are completed, as doing so can interfere with an accurate diagnosis. Common myths about bloating, deflated»If you’ve gone gluten-free, the biopsy test result may be falsely negative,» Case said.The only way to determine whether someone has non-celiac gluten sensitivity is to first rule out celiac disease and wheat allergy and then observe the response to a gluten-free diet, followed by a reintroduction of gluten to