Is Gluten Free for You?

The decision to eat a gluten free diet is influenced by many factors. Some people utilize this diet to transform their overall health, while others are required to live a gluten-free lifestyle after being diagnosed with celiac disease.

My own adventure into the gluten free world came when my husband was diagnosed with celiac disease.  It turns out that several family members from his side had been diagnosed as well.

With a high prevalence of celiac disease on his side of the family, we have decided to keep both our girls (3 and 6) on a gluten free diet since birth.

gluten free dora cake

Because of our choice, birthday cakes by necessity have been homemade.  After all, where would we possibly buy a gluten free Dora princess cake?

While I realize that we could have fed them a regular diet containing gluten and waited to see what happened, we didn’t want to always wonder with each tummy ache if the girls really had celiac disease.

So what’s the difference between celiac disease vs gluten intolerance?

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine.  In Europe, it is said to be present in 1 out of 100 people.  Reported numbers in the United States are far less.

People with celiac disease must stay gluten free for life to prevent damage to intestines, increased risk for lymphoma, and other symptoms. Symptoms for those with celiac may include diarrhea, fatigue, anemia, along with many others associated with malabsorption.

Celiac disease is not easily diagnosed.  You must remain on a gluten diet and have blood tests for an IgA antibody followed by endoscopy and small bowel biopsy.

Gluten intolerance as a diagnosis is less agreed upon by physicians.  Most commonly, it is considered in patients with symptoms similar to those in celiac disease that improve with gluten-free diet. However, these patients test negative for actual celiac disease.

So what’s the right decision for you and your family?  Unless you have proven celiac disease or symptoms that greatly improve while withholding gluten, this diet may not be worth it to you.  Gluten free foods (especially baked goods) are often expensive and have more calories than their regular counterparts. This is often due to the extra fats that are required to hold the gluten free flour together.

Certain gluten free flours may also have a higher glycemic index than whole wheat flour.  So, its very important to talk with your doctor before diagnosing yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.

For my family, our choice is a gluten free house.  While I freely admit to “sneak eating” an occasional whole wheat roll from the bakery aisle at Whole Foods, I’m pleased with our decision.  I hope you explore what is the right decision for you and your family and may it bring you better health.


For more information:

Celiac Disease Foundation

Emedicine Celiac Sprue


J Lee Jenkins, MD, MSc, FACEP is a practicing board-certified emergency physician and researcher in emergency public health. She can also be found on twitter ( and Facebook (J Lee Jenkins, MD).

Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only. This blog is not intended to provide personal medical advice. As always, please consult with your personal doctor prior to making any changes to your health regimen.

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