Nutrition

Gluten: What’s the Scoop?

Variety of bread on a wooden tableIs a gluten-free diet better for you and your baby’s health? Here’s Munira Shabber, a student with Ryerson University’s Internationally Educated Professionals in Nutrition program to answer this question.

Gluten free diets have been trending recently in the news for being healthier. I sometimes get asked by new moms on whether they should switch to a gluten free diet. My answer is “No, unless you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (gluten intolerance), there is no benefit in following a gluten free diet”.

So, what is gluten and where is it found?

Gluten is a protein found in the following grain products: wheat, rye, barley and triticale. It binds the dough together and makes it stretchy. There are also lots of hidden sources of gluten such as flavoured yoghurt, soy sauce, deli meats, nut butters, etc.

How does gluten affect someone with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance?

For those diagnosed with celiac disease, even small amounts of gluten could damage the intestine (gut) and affect the absorption of nutrients like protein, fat, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals resulting in poor health. Hence, gluten free diets are essential for those with celiac disease.

People diagnosed with gluten sensitivity also benefit from gluten free diets as it gives them relief from symptoms like diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain and bloating.

Should you follow a gluten–free diet during pregnancy if you don’t have celiac disease?

Gluten free sign

Most gluten- free products are not enriched with nutrients essential in pregnancy like B vitamins, iron and folic acid. Gluten- free diets are also found to be low in calcium, fibre, zinc and magnesium. These are all important nutrients for pregnancy and the growing baby.

Bottom line

Following a gluten free diet (if not needed) could be limited in variety, nutrients, time consuming, stressful and expensive and is therefore not recommended. If you are worried that you may have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, speak to your health care provider to get tested.

If you are following a gluten free diet, connect with a Registered Dietitian who can help you understand food label reading to identify and remove any foods that have hidden gluten sources.

For more info, connect with:

  • Toronto Public Health via eChat or call 416-338-7600
  • Telehealth to speak with a Registered Dietitian 1-866-797-0000

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