Gluten Free

A gluten-free diet (GFD) is a diet that strictly excludes gluten, which is a mixture of proteins found in wheat (and all of its species and hybrids, such as spelt, kamut, and triticale), as well as barley, rye, and oats. The inclusion of oats in a gluten-free diet remains controversial, and may depend on the oat cultivar and the frequent cross-contamination with other gluten-containing cereals.

Gluten may cause both gastrointestinal and systemic symptoms for those with gluten-related disorders, including celiac disease (CD), non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), gluten ataxia, dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), and wheat allergy.In these people, the gluten-free diet is demonstrated as an effective treatment, but several studies show that about 79% of the people with celiac disease have an incomplete recovery of the small bowel, despite a strict gluten-free diet. This is mainly caused by inadvertent ingestion of gluten People with poor basic education and understanding of gluten-free diet often believe that they are strictly following the diet, but are making regular errors.

In addition, a gluten-free diet may, in at least some cases, improve gastrointestinal or systemic symptoms in diseases like irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or HIV enteropathy, among others. Gluten-free diets have also been promoted as an alternative treatment of people with autism, but the current evidence for their efficacy in making any change in the symptoms of autism is limited and weak.

Gluten proteins have low nutritional and biological value, and the grains that contain gluten are not essential in the human diet.However, an unbalanced selection of food and an incorrect choice of gluten-free replacement products may lead to nutritional deficiencies. Replacing flour from wheat or other gluten-containing cereals with gluten-free flours in commercial products may lead to a lower intake of important nutrients, such as iron and B vitamins. Some gluten-free commercial replacement products are not enriched or fortified as their gluten-containing counterparts, and often have greater lipid/carbohydrate content. Children especially often over-consume these products, such as snacks and biscuits. Nutritional complications can be prevented by a correct dietary education.

A gluten-free diet should be mainly based on naturally gluten-free foods with a good balance of micro and macro nutrients: meat, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables, potatoes, rice, and corn are all appropriate components of such a diet. If commercially prepared, gluten-free replacement products are used, choosing those that are enriched or fortified with vitamins and minerals is preferable. Pseudocereals (quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat) and some minor cereals are healthy alternatives to these prepared products and have high biological and nutritional value Furthermore, they contain protein of higher nutritional quality than those of wheat, and in greater quantities.

 One breadcrumb of this size contains enough gluten to reactivate the autoimmune response in people with celiac disease when they are following a gluten-free diet, although obvious symptoms may not appear. Consuming gluten even in small quantities, which may be the result of inadvertent cross-contamination, impede recovery in people with gluten-related disorders. Celiac diseaseMain article: Celiac diseaseCoeliac disease (CD) is a chronic, immune-mediated, and mainly intestinal process, caused by the ingestion of wheat, barley, rye and derivatives, that appears in genetically predisposed people of all ages. CD is not only a gastrointestinal disease, because it may affect several organs and cause an extensive variety of non-gastrointestinal symptoms, and most importantly, it may often be completely asymptomatic. Added difficulties for diagnosis are the fact that serological markers (anti-tissue transglutaminase  are not always present and many people with coeliac may have minor mucosal lesions, without atrophy of the intestinal villi.

CD affects approximately 1–2% of the general population all over the world and is on the increase but most cases remain unrecognized, undiagnosed and untreated, exposing patients to the risk of long-term complications.People may suffer severe disease symptoms and be subjected to extensive investigations for many years before a proper diagnosis is achieved Untreated CD may cause malabsorption, reduced quality of life, iron deficiency, osteoporosis, obstetric complications (stillbirth, intrauterine growth restriction, preterm birth, low birthweight, and small for gestational age), an increased risk of intestinal lymphomas and greater mortality.] CD is associated with some autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes mellitus type 1, thyroiditis gluten ataxia, psoriasis, vitiligo, autoimmune hepatitis, dermatitis herpetiformis, primary sclerosing cholangitis, and more.

CD with "classic symptoms", which include gastrointestinal manifestations such as chronic diarrhoea and abdominal distention, malabsorption, loss of appetite, and impaired growth, is currently the least common presentation form of the disease and affects predominantly to small children generally younger than two years of age.

CD with "non-classic symptoms" is the most common clinical type and occurs in older children (over 2 years old), adolescents and adults.It is characterized by milder or even absent gastrointestinal symptoms and a wide spectrum of non-intestinal manifestations that can involve any organ of the body, and very frequently may be completely asymptomatic both in children (at least in 43% of the cases and adults.

Following a lifelong gluten-free diet is the only medically-accepted treatment for people with celiac disease.

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity
Main article: Non-celiac gluten sensitivity
Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) is described as a condition of multiple symptoms that improves when switching to a gluten-free diet, after coeliac disease and wheat allergy are excluded.People with NCGS may develop gastrointestinal symptoms, which resemble those of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or a variety of nongastrointestinal symptoms.

Gastrointestinal symptoms may include any of the following: abdominal pain, bloating, bowel habit abnormalities (either diarrhoea or constipation), nausea, aerophagia, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and aphthous stomatitis.A range of extra-intestinal symptoms, said to be the only manifestation of NCGS in the absence of gastrointestinal symptoms, have been suggested, but remain controversial. These include: headache, migraine, "foggy mind", fatigue, fibromyalgia, joint and muscle pain, leg or arm numbness, tingling of the extremities, dermatitis (eczema or skin rash), atopic disorders such as asthma, rhinitis, other allergies, depression, anxiety, iron-deficiency anemia, folate deficiency or autoimmune diseases.NCGS has also been controversially implicated in some neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia, eating disorders, autism, peripheral neuropathy, ataxia and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) Above 20% of people with NCGS have IgE-mediated allergy to one or more inhalants, foods or metals, among which most common are mites, graminaceae, parietaria, cat or dog hair, shellfish and nickel.Approximately, 35% of people with NCGS suffer other food intolerances, mainly lactose intolerance.

The pathogenesis of NCGS is not yet well understood. For this reasons, it is a controversial syndrome and some authors still question it.There is evidence that not only gliadin (the main cytotoxic antigen of gluten), but also other proteins named ATIs which are present in gluten-containing cereals (wheat, rye, barley, and their derivatives) may have a role in the development of symptoms. ATIs are potent activators of the innate immune system.FODMAPs, especially fructans, are present in small amounts in gluten-containing grains and have been identified as a possible cause of some gastrointestinal symptoms in persons with NCGS. As of 2019, reviews have concluded that although FODMAPs may play a role in NCGS, they only explain certain gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating, but not the extra-digestive symptoms that people with NCGS may develop, such as neurological disorders, fibromyalgia, psychological disturbances, and dermatitis.

After exclusion of coeliac disease and wheat allergy, the subsequent step for diagnosis and treatment of NCGS is to start a strict gluten-free diet to assess if symptoms improve or resolve completely. This may occur within days to weeks of starting a GFD, but improvement may also be due to a non-specific, placebo response. Recommendations may resemble those for coeliac disease, for the diet to be strict and maintained, with no transgression. The degree of gluten cross contamination tolerated by people with NCGS is not clear but there is some evidence that they can present with symptoms even after consumption of small amounts.It is not yet known whether NCGS is a permanent or a transient condition. A trial of gluten reintroduction to observe any reaction after 1–2 years of strict gluten-free diet might be performed.

A subgroup of people with NCGS may not improve by eating commercially available gluten-free products, which are usually rich of preservatives and additives, because chemical additives (such as sulphites, glutamates, nitrates and benzoates) might have a role in evoking functional gastrointestinal symptoms of NCGS. These people may benefit from a diet with a low content of preservatives and additives.

NCGS, which is possibly immune-mediated, now appears to be more common than coeliac disease, with prevalence rates between 0.5–13% in the general population.

Wheat allergy
People can also experience adverse effects of wheat as result of a wheat allergy. Gastrointestinal symptoms of wheat allergy are similar to those of coeliac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, but there is a different interval between exposure to wheat and onset of symptoms. Wheat allergy has a fast onset (from minutes to hours) after the consumption of food containing wheat and could be anaphylaxis.

The management of wheat allergy consists of complete withdrawal of any food containing wheat and other gluten-containing cereals.Nevertheless, some people with wheat allergy can tolerate barley, rye or oats.

Gluten ataxia
A male with gluten ataxia: previous situation and evolution after 3 months of gluten-free diet.
Gluten ataxia is an autoimmune disease triggered by the ingestion of gluten.With gluten ataxia, damage takes place in the cerebellum, the balance center of the brain that controls coordination and complex movements like walking, speaking and swallowing, with loss of Purkinje cells. People with gluten ataxia usually present gait abnormality or incoordination and tremor of the upper limbs. Gaze-evoked nystagmus and other ocular signs of cerebellar dysfunction are common. Myoclonus, palatal tremor, and opsoclonus-myoclonus may also appear.

Early diagnosis and treatment with a gluten-free diet can improve ataxia and prevent its progression. The effectiveness of the treatment depends on the elapsed time from the onset of the ataxia until diagnosis, because the death of neurons in the cerebellum as a result of gluten exposure is irreversible.

Gluten ataxia accounts for 40% of ataxias of unknown origin and 15% of all ataxias. Less than 10% of people with gluten ataxia present any gastrointestinal symptom, yet about 40% have intestinal damage.

As a fad diet
Since the beginning of the 21st century, the gluten-free diet has become the most popular fad diet in the United States and other countries. Clinicians worldwide have been challenged by an increasing number of people who do not have coeliac disease nor wheat allergy, with digestive or extra-digestive symptoms which improved removing wheat/gluten from the diet. Many of these persons began a gluten-free diet on their own, without having been previously evaluated.Another reason that contributed to this trend was the publication of several books that demonize gluten and point to it as a cause of type 2 diabetes, weight gain and obesity, and a broad list of diseases ranging from depression and anxiety to arthritis and autism.The book that has had the most impact is Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar - Your Brain's Silent Killers, by the American neurologist David Perlmutter, published in September 2013. Another book that has had great impact is Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, by the cardiologist William Davis, which refers to wheat as a "chronic poison" and became a New York Times bestseller within a month of publication in 2011. The gluten-free diet has been advocated and followed by many celebrities to lose weight, such as Miley Cyrus, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kourtney Kardashian, and are used by some professional athletes, who believe the diet can improve energy and health. It became popular in USA, as the popularity of low-carbohydrate diets faded.

Estimates suggest that in 2014, 30% of people in USA and Australia were consuming gluten-free foods, with a growing number, calculated from surveys that by 2016 approximately 100 million Americans would consume gluten-free products. Data from a 2015 Nielsen survey of 30,000 adults in 60 countries around the world conclude that 21% of people prefer to buy gluten-free foods, being the highest interest among the younger generations.In USA, it was estimated that more than half of people who buy foods labeled gluten-free do not have a clear reaction to gluten, and they do so "because they think it will help them lose weight, because they seem to feel better or because they mistakenly believe they are sensitive to gluten."Although gluten is highly immunologically reactive and humans appear not to have evolved to digest it well, a gluten-free diet is not a healthier option for the general population, other than people suffering from gluten-related disorders or other associated conditions which improve with a gluten-free diet in some cases, such as irritable bowel syndrome and certain autoimmune and neurological disorders. There is no published experimental evidence to support that the gluten-free diet contributes to weight loss.

Eating gluten-free

Quinoa is a pseudocereal that is gluten-free.

Gluten-free bread made of a mixture of flours like buckwheat flour, tapioca flour, millet flour and psyllium seed husks. Special flour mixes can be bought for bread-making purposes.
A gluten-free diet is a diet that strictly excludes gluten, proteins present in wheat (and all wheat varieties such as spelt and kamut), barley, rye, oat, and derivatives of these grains such as malt and triticale, and foods that may include them, or shared transportation or processing facilities with them.The inclusion of oats in a gluten-free diet remains controversial. Oat toxicity in people with gluten-related disorders depends on the oat cultivar consumed because the immunoreactivities of toxic prolamins are different among oat varieties.Furthermore, oats are frequently cross-contaminated with the other gluten-containing cereals. Pure oat (labelled as "pure oat" or "gluten-free oat") refers to oats uncontaminated with any of the other gluten-containing cereals. Some cultivars of pure oat could be a safe part of a gluten-free diet, requiring knowledge of the oat variety used in food products for a gluten-free diet. Nevertheless, the long-term effects of pure oats consumption are still unclear and further studies identifying the cultivars used are needed before making final recommendations on their inclusion in the gluten-free diet.

Other grains, although gluten-free in themselves, may contain gluten by cross-contamination with gluten-containing cereals during grain harvesting, transporting, milling, storing, processing, handling or cooking.

Processed foods commonly contain gluten as an additive (as emulsifiers, thickeners, gelling agents, fillers, and coatings), so they would need specific labeling. Unexpected sources of gluten are, among others, processed meat, vegetarian meat substitutes, reconstituted seafood, stuffings, butter, seasonings, marinades, dressings, confectionary, candies, and ice cream.

Gluten Free Rice Flour
Cross contamination in the home is also a consideration for those who suffer gluten-related disorders.There can be many sources of cross contamination, as for example when family members prepare gluten-free and gluten-containing foods on the same surfaces (counter tops, tables, etc.) or share utensils that have not been cleaned after being used to prepare gluten-containing foods (cutting boards, colanders, cutlery, etc.), kitchen equipment (toaster, cupboards, etc.) or certain packaged foods (butter, peanut butter, etc.).

Medications and dietary supplements are made using excipients that may contain gluten.

The gluten-free diet includes naturally gluten-free food, such as meat, fish, seafood, eggs, milk and dairy products, nuts, legumes, fruit, vegetables, potatoes, pseudocereals (in particular amaranth, buckwheat, chia seed, quinoa), only certain cereal grains (corn, rice, sorghum), minor cereals (including fonio, Job's tears, millet, teff, called "minor" cereals as they are "less common and are only grown in a few small regions of the world"), some other plant products (arrowroot, mesquite flour) and products made from these gluten-free foods.