Gluten-free diets with Anya Skornyakova and the CHED Health Series

Gluten-free diets are becoming increasingly popular – but are the diets actually healthier, or is it just the latest dieting trend based on myths? Registered Dietitian, Anya Skornyakova, chatted with Bruce Bowie at 630 CHED to to discuss all things gluten and separate fact from fad.

What is gluten and why do so many people try to avoid it?

Gluten is a protein commonly found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale that provides foods its elasticity. You can think of it as a glue holding particles together. Some foods that contain gluten are pasta, baked goods, noodles, and beer. There are also hidden sources of gluten such as sauces and spice mixes.

People should avoid gluten for a number of reasons. Some people can have health conditions such as celiac disease. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the intestine gets damaged by gluten. Others may also be trying it just to keep on trend.

Should people be avoiding gluten?

As Copeman dietitians we provide a very personalized approach to healthcare. When I review a patient’s chart and see a history of gluten free sensitivity or a condition that’s indicative of a gluten-free diet then yes, I will support them 100%. I would also provide them with helpful resources and teach them how to make proper substitutions in order to get all their nutrition requirements.

Would you ever recommend someone try a gluten-free diet?

People in general don’t need to avoid gluten as a majority of the population is not gluten sensitive. However, in certain cases such as celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is the only answer to the management of their condition.

In my practice at Copeman, I have encountered numerous people with gluten sensitivity. They are not celiac per se, but gluten still bothers them. Gluten might cause some GI problems such as nausea, vomiting, an upset stomach and gas bloating et cetera. So for those people, going gluten-free can provide them with more energy and less lethargy and a better feeling overall.

However, one should also remember that using gluten-free products does not necessarily mean that they are choosing a healthier product compared to their gluten containing counterparts. Gluten-free products can be processed and they can also contain more sugar and higher saturated fats. So it’s important to remember to read the nutrition label and the ingredient list.

Can going gluten free be harmful?

In some cases it can be harmful because, for the majority of people, going gluten-free means avoiding all whole grain products which are rich in fiber, vitamins and nutrients. So my advice is, if somebody wants to go gluten-free, contact a professional to help guide you. With the help of a dietitian, we can figure out the proper substitutions one needs to make.