Going Gluten-Free Without Having Celiac Disease Can Be Harmful

While a gluten-free diet is crucial for those with Celiac disease, experts are cautioning that excluding gluten from your diet if you don’t have Celiac disease can be harmful, according to an article in the NY Daily News

Gluten-free diets are all the rage among some celebrity circles right now. They supposedly assume that avoiding gluten will help them stay slender or lose weight. However, there is no evidence to suggest that eliminating gluten from your diet causes weight loss.

Also, many products that are labeled gluten-free are high in sugar, fat, and salt. It pays to read the label.

The message seems to be that avoiding gluten if you don’t have Celiac disease is not only unnecessary but it could potentially backfire if your ultimate goal in doing so is to lose weight or improve your health.

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About Laura Jean

Laura Jean is the publisher of the Gluten Free Network, a site dedicated to providing information, resources, and recipes for those who are gluten-intolerant or following a gluten-free diet.

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  1. I’ve had food allergy attacks since I was very young. My doctors never gave me a test but just told me to Eliminate nuts, seafood and strawberries. I did but would still get rashes and hives. As I got older I started getting very bad indigestion with bloating and cramping. Then I had a bad attack after eating 9 grain toast. Went to hospital got a shot and steroids. Doctor said I have an intense food allergy. He said that wheat would be rare, and that it must be a seed in the bread. My HMO must not cover this test! Then a year later my tonsil swelled up so big I could barely swallow. Went to the doctor and found out there was no infection. They tested my thyroid and gave me an endoscopy. He said it must be an allergy to something. But HMO rejected allergy testing. He said I should do an elimination diet. I had already not been eating nuts, seafood, milk, and seeds. so I decided to eliminate gluten and just see what happened. After just a few days, I felt like a different person with a different stomach. My tummy has never felt this good before. It has never digested my food without pain before. I even thought my body might just be confused and the pain would return. Well, a tually I did accidentally eat a small amour of wheat, not knowing, until 20 minutes later when Ibecame super bloated, nauseated, and sick. I felt like I had food poisoning. It lasted a couple days. I’m really afraid of it now. I wish I could have been tested. But I do not want to eat it now, it makes me super sick. Is this normal? Do I have a wheat allergy or celiac? I’m 45 and have gone to the doctor since I was 6 .

    • My wife was diagnosed with celiac disease over 18 months ago since then we have both gone on a gluten free diet. I did it to support her in solidarity. I was not going to sit there and eat a slice of pizza that she couldn’t. She is very thin and definitely put on some weight which she liked, I am not so thin and I put on a lot of weight!
      I am trained as a chef and baker and have written papers on health and nutrition, so transitioning to a GF diet was easy. We do not use processed foods except on the rare occasion. However I think putting on the weight was a psychological thing. Think of it this way, for your entire life you eat anything in an entire food group. All of a sudden you can no longer eat those things. You feel deprived and lost. So you find substitutes, and some of the substitutes while not great are adequate and sometimes even satisfying. You discover that gluten free pancakes with sugar free syrup are not only good, but they give you more energy than regular pancakes. All of a sudden you are using potatoes, rice, gluten free pastas and unknowingly eating more than you were before. So I truly believe that the weight gain is not so much from being unwittingly led by the nose to fat and sugar from greedy manufacturers as some might have you believe as much as it is a psychological response to perceived deprivation.
      My wife thinks that I shouldn’t be going gluten free and I am starting to wonder if she may be right. That doesn’t mean that I am going to go out and load up on rye bread and bagels and pizza oh my…. I will just get my own eating under control again.

  2. I have been gluten free for three weeks including eating nothing white. I can bend my fingers in the morning without any pain. This article is truly irresponsible.

  3. I think the article is still relevant. The point the article is trying to make is that some people are eating gluten-free products for the wrong reasons and may have unrealistic expectations.

  4. I totally agree with what Yola said in her post. This is all about encouraging people to stay on the packaged food and prescription drug band wagon. It’s all about marketing towards higher profits for huge companies. These companies don’t give a crap about human health or the environment. All they care about is shareholder profits and executive bonuses. Wouldn’t it be great for big pharma if everyone had diabetes and had to take insulin shots for the rest of their lives. Think for yourselves people, don’t believe all the fear mongering pumped out by the media!!

  5. Just because an article appears in the NY Daily news, doesn’t mean it worth republishing on the internet. I don’t care where it appeared, this article unhelpful and misleading. I don’t have Celiac disease, but I do have a gluten sensitivity that causes excema for me. It may be causing other slowly progressive problems too (like osteoperosis, or low iron) which are not as easily apparent. I have cut out gluten from my diet with no negative effects. There are many other things to eat in place of wheat, rye, and oats. It just takes a little effort and research.

  6. I find this article is not informative at all. It just makes a few very general statements that are unsupported by any details. Anyone could have written this. You don’t have to rely on packaged food to go gluten free, although grocery stores stock mostly packaged gluten free cookies, mixes, and breads. There is a huge profit margin on these items, which is why the stores carry so much of it. Like all other processed, packaged, and ready to eat food, these are unhealthy even if they are gluten free. With just a little bit of effort you can buy gluten free raw ingredients such as buckwheat, rice, and millet flours and make your own breads at home. What is unhealthy is eliminating an entire category of food, such as carbohydrates. This is fad dieting that does not work in the long run.

  7. I most definitely agree with Colleen and Mel!! This article is ridiculous and should never have been published. I was just recently tested for Celiac Disease after struggling with GI problems my whole life. I had all the symptoms for Celiac Disease, however I tested negative. A few weeks prior to the test results I started eating gluten free. Now 2 months gluten free I feel like a new person, after 26 years of throwing up, bloat, constipation, stomach pains etc. Celiac Disease took a while to come out and for doctors to understand. Gluten Sensitivity is now in that process of being recognized. Although it’s not as harmful as Celiac, it is an important issue that deserves just as much attention.

    • If you stop eating gluten before you test it will give a false negative. I’m not getting tested because it’s so inaccurate,. Going gluten free cleared up all my problems, and if I even get an invisible amount I am sick for days. Good enough for me.

  8. Well, I think it’s pretty ridiculous too Mel. ;)

  9. Mel Lucid says:

    WOW!!! What a crock o’ gluten!!!! This is so ridiculous I can’t even believe that it got published. Yeah, right, like eating less bread, crackers, pasta, cookies and cakes is going to harm people.

    Doctors may have the motive of spreading this kind of nonsense because they don’t want people to get well and stay well.

    Just tooo stupid for words. Sheeesh

  10. I don’t like the angle of these articles or how Dr’s are addressing those who go gluten-free without celiac’s or a sensitivity. Bottom line, not eating things with gluten is probably healthier in that we are avoiding bad carbs. I would presume people gain weight because they are not educated about going gluten free and that yes, often gluten free products pack on higher salt and fat contents. But those who don’t eat gluten for whatever reason are being forced to eat more vegetables, fruits, and natural items that don’t contain gluten. How could that ever be a bad thing? I think this is more about the food industry scrambling to find Dr’s who will contribute to these bogus articles so we can keep everyone on the processed food bandwagon.

  11. This article fails to include those allergic to wheat. I was diagnosed last year through skin scratch test at an allergists that I am allergic to both wheat and yeast (giving up the yeast has improved my migraines).

  12. I’m 57 years old & had all kinds of problems since my late teens. I was a skinny kid & ate like a horse. I’ve had extream menstral cramps, suicidal depression on & off, my abdomin has always been sore, tendonitis, bursitis, terrible migrains, chronic fatigue at times, anxiety, moodiness brain fog, lack of concentration, some intense itching on my shins but no vivible rash & many other things wrong. Been to doctors for years, never any help. Now I have plantar fasciitis that is claiming my ankles & calves, my back is cramping really bad. My cousin has been pestering me about getting tested for Celiac Disease, because she was & changed her life through diet. I know this will help because I went on a diet for 2 years “The Carbohydrate Addicts Diet” by Heller & Heller & though that diet did not target Gluten, the fact that my carbs were so low led me to feeling wonderful. Been eating poorly for several years now & the pains are piling up like never before. Just started to go gluten free, will have to do more research, but eating rice & taters. I don’t need no doctor test, it is real simple. If I don’t eat gluten & I get well, it is a no brainer.

  13. I agree Colleen. The article is BS. Not only does losing weight have everything to do with calories in/calories out, but packaged food in general is typically higher in salt, sugar and fat. It’s not limited to a gluten free diet.
    Eating a gluten free diet is just as innocuous as being vegetarian, following Paleo, the Zone or the yo yo diet. You can get fat, be fatigued and have headaches on whatever diet you follow if it isn’t BALANCED, regardless of what you do or don’t put in your body.

  14. The above comment was typed on my android phone… hence the odd typos.

  15. Wow. I think this article is very irresponsible. Really? You think there are THAT many people who are eliminating gluten(an enormous undertaking) so that they can cut back on calories, but then they are unwittingly replacing those calories with more calories by way of sugar and fat. Really?

    I think rather… people don’t feel good and their bodies suggest that the cause of their issues is gluten. When they experiment and find they feel better without gluten then they have the motivation necessary to eliminate this ubiquitous food. The fact that science can’t always explain why gluten causes health problems should not discount a person’s experience. And spreading the notion that gf is a fad is simply silly and ciunter productive when supposedly one in 100 Americans has celiac and a fraction are aware– and DOCTORS estimate that between 7-15% of Americans have idiopathic gluten sensitivity.

    So… rather than suggesting that people ought not trust their gut for fear of being a far-follower, why don’t you try to something useful.

    • Colleen, I’m simply reporting on an article that came out in the NY Daily news.

      • I read the book wheat belly and soon after went gluten free. I consider myself an average American male with a belly, high BP, low HDL, and pre diabetes. Since loosing the gluten I have lost ten lbs in the stomach, my blood work has improved HDL went to normal range, and I feel like a totally different person. I have been trying to loose weight for twenty years and this is the first time I have seen progress with little else than ditching the wheat products, which are in almost every item on every isle in every store. these products do nothing but make tons of money for the local grocery store and large food manufactures. I wonder who wrote this article and how they get paid. If we want to solve the healthcare issues in this country we need to fix the food delivery and the Franken Foods that are addressed in the book Wheat Belly.

  16. Cary Woodruff says:

    I’ve gone gluten free to control my migraines and it has helped. I have, however, gained weight. I don’t understand that, but anything is worth cutting down on migraines!