Health Beat: Gluten-free: Health benefits for non-celiacs

Health Beat: Gluten-free: Health benefits for non-celiacs

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Paul Daniel suffers from food allergies and decided to go gluten-free, and it has been key to improving his health.

"When I lay down at night, I'd have asthma symptoms or I would have repeated migraines and get ear infections repeatedly," Daniel said.

Daniel has sliced pizza and pasta from his diet and is feeling a lot better.

"I eat a lot more rice and Indian dishes now," Daniel said.

People with wheat allergies, and especially celiac disease, cannot tolerate the protein gluten because it damages parts of the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. A person can become malnourished, no matter how much food they eat. This can mean a lot of stomach pains.

"We're seeing more people come to us going gluten-free not because they have been diagnosed with celiac, but they are presenting with other medical conditions [like], joint pain, eczema, [and] unexplained pain," said Amanda S. Holiday, registered dietician at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

In the meantime, gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean eliminating your favorite foods. Pizza is still game. For example, one recipe is made from potato tapioca millet and cornstarch.

"There are more grains that are gluten-free than those that have gluten. The typical American diet [just] doesn't know about them," Holiday said.

So, even though Daniel is cutting out gluten, he is now opening up opportunities to try new tastes.

Some dieticians warn that gluten-free products are made with refined, unenriched grains and starches, which contain plenty of calories but very few vitamins or mineral.

Some studies have found that gluten-free diets can be seriously nutrient-deficient, and low in fiber, iron, folate, niacin, thiamine, riboflavin, calcium, vitamin b12, phosphorus and zinc.

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