Going gluten free? Why it may or may not be the best option for you

ELMIRA, N.Y. (18 NEWS) - Gluten: what is it exactly? And why are so many people choosing to cut it out of their diets? Dr. Matthew Lincoln, a gastroenterologist at Guthrie, said gluten is the protein found in foods made with wheat flour.

“That protein within food people ingest and can actually cause symptoms in certain populations,” Lincoln said.

More specifically, gluten causes issues for those who have been diagnosed with Celiac disease.

"In Celiac disease what can happen is the patients will ingest gluten and get an immune response in their G.I. track that leads to inflammation within the small intestine” Lincoln said. “That inflammation over time actually degrades the small intestine and actually causes damage."

But Celiac sufferers aren't the only people cutting gluten out. Though not technically considered an allergy, gluten sensitivity is another reason people are making the switch.

"Some of the symptoms are nausea, vomiting, bloating, abdominal pain, in some cases headaches and fatigue as well,” Lincoln said.

It’s not uncommon to see symptoms manifesting outside the GI tract either.

"Joint pains, mouth sores, skin conditions,” Lincoln said.

Elmira native Samantha Potter, 26, first started noticing symptoms on her skin about two years ago.

"It was the strangest thing, I went to go to visit a friend in Boston and then all of a sudden I started getting like an itch on my face,” Potter said. “I thought maybe it was a new make-up I tried or lotion or moisturizer or something so I'd stopped using it. Then it kept happening a few weeks later and then the itch started turning into more of a rash and I would get all these almost like sores in my face."

"Went to the dermatologist and they tested me for a bunch of different things, gave me steroids and antibiotics and nothing was helping it,” Potter said.

Potter said it was actually her hairdresser's suggestion to go get blood work done. 

“Then like three days later I got the phone call and they were like it's absolutely a gluten allergy, 100% Celiac, stop eating gluten, bread, wheat, everything.,” she said. “And within two days the symptoms went away."

Though she admits at times she's tempted to taste gluten again… 

"I will just always go back to knowing what that rash was like and on my face and everything and it's just not worth it at all,” Potter said. “That chocolate chip cookie not worth it, but it is a lot of self-control."

But self-control can be hard, especially during the holiday season. Luckily there's places like Poppleton Bakery on Market Street in Corning that make it so that going gluten free doesn't have to mean going without."  

"People have come to love what we have here,” manager Marisa McIntyre said. "With Thanksgiving and everything our bakers do pies and stuff for special orders. So they have a pumpkin pie, pecan pie and I think she does a bourbon apple crisp."

In fact, gluten free customers aren't the only ones who enjoy their products.  

"Actually I have a few people come in regularly who aren't gluten-free who do want to gluten-free items just because they taste delicious, and if you don't know it's gluten-free a lot of times you can't even tell the difference,” McIntyre said.

Though the occasional indulgence in gluten free treats is okay. Dr. Lincoln said if you can digest gluten, don't cut it out just because.

"There have been several studies that show the benefits of gluten health wise,” he said. “In certain cases you actually get improvements in cholesterol and things like that. So you cutting it out completely when there's really no need to, while certainly can support your loved one that you were with, it may not be necessarily the healthiest thing for you.

Dr. Lincoln said if you're experiencing GI symptoms that last longer than three weeks, it may be time to talk to your doctor about possible food sensitivities. He recommends consulting with a physician before cutting out any specific foods.


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