The Harm in Blindly ‘Going Gluten Free’ – The Atlantic

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For parents concerned about arsenic in rice, Reilly regularly advises that many gluten-free products replace grain products with rice (which she sometimes refers to as “secret rice”). To minimize risk of arsenic exposure, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that kids simply eat a diverse diet. Eliminating all foods that contain gluten makes that goal only more difficult.

Among people of all ages, she notes, several small studies have now found deterioration in quality of life after the switch. For children especially, imposing a gluten-free diet can be socially isolating. In the journal Pediatrics, kids with celiac disease who attended a week-long gluten-free camp, where every food was gluten free by default, “demonstrated improvement in well-being, self-perception, and emotional outlook”—which seemed to be because the environment “alleviate[d] stress and anxiety around food and social interactions.”

Life is not gluten-free camp, though. In the real world, gluten-free versions of foods are most often more expensive than the standard formulations, as well. (An especially pointed factor for the 20 percent of households earning less than $30,000 annually and yet worrying about procuring gluten-free products.)

“We obviously have a lot of patients who need to be on a gluten-free diet,” Reilly added, “and I don’t mean to alarm those individuals.”

Given the disproportionate number of people who are eating this way without reason, though, there is cause for alarm. Especially among the many people who now mistakenly and blindly conflate “gluten free” and “healthy.” And among those who believe they may have celiac disease but do not get tested. Proper diagnosis is crucial not only to be certain that avoiding gluten and incurring the costs and risks above is truly necessary, but because other conditions sometimes go hand-in-hand with celiac. Those include the skin condition dermatitis herpetiformis, lymphoma, anemia, depression, liver disease, and osteopenia (weak bones). Having a proper diagnosis may inform future medical care not just for patients, but for their families.

As Reilly put it, resolutely but without alarm, “Anything that could potentially derail detection of this disease, including starting the diet on one’s own, should be avoided.”

The Harm in Blindly ‘Going Gluten Free’ – The Atlantic