If you haven't yet heard the word “gluten,” you've probably been living under a rock. Celebrities such as Gwyneth Paltrow and Miley Cyrus have embraced the gluten-free “lifestyle” — or at least have dabbled in it — and there’s no shortage of wellness bloggers and influencers who tout the purported benefits of skipping this complex protein found in wheat. The result: Most of the people cutting gluten out of their lives aren’t doing so because of celiac disease, according to a recent paper published in the journal Pediatrics. Instead, they’re doing it because of the many circulating myths out there.
A gluten-free diet is literally a life-saver for people with celiac disease, which is a genetic autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine, triggering symptoms such as cramping, bloating, and diarrhea. In fact, going gluten-free is the only available treatment for people who have this condition.
But too many people wrongfully believe that a gluten-free diet will help boost energy, lead to fast weight loss, solve headaches or inflammation, or help with auto-immune diseases in general, explains Peter H.R. Green, MD, director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. “There just isn’t any scientific basis to these claims.”
Still, it isn’t quite that simple, Dr. Green admits, as we are learning more about the existence of what’s known as gluten sensitivity.
Ahead, we debunk the major misconceptions surrounding this much-maligned protein and share the latest on who can and cannot eat gluten.