What you should know about a gluten-free diet

Will “gluten-free” trigger a dietary craze akin to no-fat, low-sodium or carb-free trends?

While most dietary trends — some more healthful than others — focus on prevention or offer a “quick fix” promise, the gluten-free movement is somewhat different.

In fact, gluten-free continues its rise in popularity largely due to the ever-increasing amount of individuals diagnosed with celiac disease, a disorder that can cause a dangerous immune response when gluten is ingested.

The condition, marked by symptoms including diarrhea, anemia, gas and bloating, can significantly damage or destroy a sufferer’s small intestine. This can lead to nutrient malabsorption, leaving the person deficient in nutrients such as vitamin B12, calcium and vitamin D.

In addition to celiac disease, many people believe they are sensitive to gluten — found in wheat, barley, rye and other grains — and therefore avoid products containing the protein. Some consumers associate gluten consumption with digestive problems, while others believe a gluten-free diet can help reduce symptoms of autism.

Whether a person is intolerant or sensitive to gluten, the only surefire way to prevent gastrointestinal problems and other symptoms is to avoid the protein altogether. Safe foods include fruits and vegetables, quinoa and rice.

Unfortunately, accidental ingestion happens, and it’s unlikely that even the most careful consumer can guarantee a gluten-free diet 100 percent of the time.

Given the potential risk of ingesting gluten, even in “gluten-free” products, it might make sense for intolerant or sensitive individuals to take a good DPP IV digestive enzyme supplement that focuses on breaking down the protein and relieving inflammatory responses.

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