Here’s the real reason your friend’s ‘gluten-free’ diet is probably making them feel better

 Here’s the real reason your friend’s ‘gluten-free’ diet is probably making them feel better

As more and more of your friends go gluten-free, you may be wondering: Is there something to this latest diet craze? Is gluten intolerance a thing? Is it getting more common? The answer is no. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, only about 1% of people worldwide actually have celiac disease, the rare genetic disorder that makes people intolerant to gluten. In other words, in a room of 100 people, chances are one has celiac, and that number is not rising. A study published this month found that the prevalence of celiac has remained unchanged since 2009. As for all those who say they don’t have celiac but are just “sensitive” to gluten, a 2013 study out of Monash University suggested that’s probably not true.


So what’s going on when people stop eating gluten

Alan Levinovitz, an assistant professor at James Madison University who studied the intersection between religion and medicine and wrote the book “The Gluten Lie,” says it essentially comes down to a mix of psychology and behavioral change.


In the book, Levinovitz interviews Peter Gibson, the Monash University professor of gastroenterology who helped write the 2013 study, concluding that non-celiac gluten “intolerance” was probably not a thing. Gibson says the real reason that many people who have cut out gluten claim to feel healthier is simply because they’ve changed their diets. “I’ve noticed [this] many times, even with family members,” Gibson told Levinovitz. “They’ve decided they’re eating many takeaway foods, quick foods, not eating well. They read this thing about gluten-free, and then they’re buying fresh vegetables, cooking well, and eating a lot better.”

In other words, while cutting gluten may seem like it helps you lose weight or clears up your complexion, the reality is that 500 other things could be the real cause, Univers Inform. “Blaming the gluten is easy, but you could point to about a hundred things they’re doing better,” Gibson said.

But this can be a tough pill to swallow.

“When it comes to food sensitivities, people are incredibly unwilling to question self-diagnoses,” Levinovitz wrote. “No one wants to think that the benefits they experienced from going gluten-free … might be psychological.” On top of that, connecting what we’ve eaten to physical symptoms is incredibly difficult. Studies have shown that we have trouble remembering what we ate when we ate it, and we’re also poor judges of what’s healthy and what’s not. So rather than jumping to self-diagnose, see a doctor. And stick to the science.

Dennis Bailey

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