Gluten: a Fad or a Fix?

When you enter the supermarket, it seems as though you can’t escape foods with “gluten-free” labels or magazines featuring celebrities, like Oprah, Kim Kardashian, and Miley Cyrus, praising their gluten free diet. So what is the big deal about gluten and the gluten free diet?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale, meaning that it is in foods derived from those core grains (pastas, crackers, breads, baked goods, pizza, cereals). It’s even in substances aren’t from the core grains like self-basting poultry, vegetables in sauces, or even your makeup. It’s hard to escape gluten if you aren’t purposefully avoiding it.

But why avoid it?

One reason to avoid gluten is if you have celiac diseae, or if you find your skin sensitive to foods with gluten. Celiac disease is a condition where gluten causes the immune system to attack the small intestine’s villi, or outer lining, thus preventing the body from absorbing essential nutrients. Those with celiac disease suffer from abdominal pain, bloating, skin rashes, cramps, and malnutrition.

However, you may test negative for celiac disease, but still experience acne, eczema, or other skin rashes which improve with a gluten-free diet. This new phenomenon is known as gluten intolerance. Gluten intolerance is like celiac disease, just with out the damage to small intestine, and is treated the same way: a gluten-free diet.

A gluten-free diet is heavy on fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables and replaces foods with gluten with “gluten-free” foods, which have less than 20 ppm of gluten. While foods like potatoes, rice, corn, beans, and quinoa are naturally without gluten, breads and starches have to be manipulated to remove the gluten. One of the main ways to transform the staples into gluten-free is by using rice flour, potato starch, or tapioca flour instead of wheat-based flour.

Acne has been recently shown to be sensitive to the starch load and often the amount of gluten in the diet. Similarly, skin rashes, such as eczema, improve with a low-gluten or gluten-free diet. If you feel your skin is not improving on standard acne or eczema medications, talk with Dr. Talakoub about exploring how your diet may affect your skin.

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