You ask a great question. I recently wrote an article for our local newspaper discussing this very topic. To summarize, following a gluten free diet is necessary for some people that have a disease that prevents them from digesting certain nutrients in foods (specifically gluten). This disease is called Celiac Sprue. There are other people that have gluten sensitivity, so they may need to limit gluten as well. Some of the side effects of gluten sensitivity may include: constipation, diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain and nausea. I would recommend seeing your doctor if you are experiencing any of those symptoms.
If you are interested in following a gluten free diet just to “eat healthier” then I would urge you to pause before you begin this diet. Just because one follows a diet that is gluten free, does not necessarily mean that person is eating “healthy”. I have had patients follow this diet and fill up on all sorts of not-so-healthy gluten free foods like (gluten free) cookies, doughnuts, refined pastas, etc. People following a gluten free diet may also be consuming high amounts of high sodium processed meats, full fat dairy products, and may be consuming far too many calories than their bodies need.
Since you are interested in eating healthier, and you would like to still go gluten free, then I would begin by seeing a registered dietitian. The gluten free diet is somewhat complicated and you will have to do some research and planning to fully and effectively follow this diet. A dietitian can help get you on the right track by educating you on what foods contain gluten and what foods don’t. She can educate you on the importance of taking in a good balance of foods from all the food groups and even make grocery lists and nutritional meal plans for you. If you want to first try to follow this diet on your own, there are a few websites that may be helpful to you: www.gluten.org, www.csceliacs.org, and www.eatright.com.Login to Favorite