Celiac disease, an autoimmune reaction to gluten, affects around 1% of the population, but it’s estimated that another 6% have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), a less severe adverse reaction to gluten. Since gluten reactions can be so non-specific—they can trigger everything from gut issues to migraines—it’s likely that many more people have undiagnosed issues with it.

A gluten-free diet is an eating plan that completely eliminates the protein, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, triticale, and contaminated oats. While there are more obvious sources, like breads and cereals, gluten is often hiding in packaged and processed foods, too. (For example, soy sauce is one unlikely culprit). Because of this, transitioning to a gluten-free diet can be an undertaking. 

As such, healthcare providers don’t globally recommend that all individuals restrict gluten, according to Jessica DeLuise, MHS, PA-C, CCMS. However, if you have an allergy, sensitivity, or autoimmune disorder, following a gluten-free diet is essential for managing your symptoms and feeling your best.

“The benefits of doing so would be less gastrointestinal distress, avoiding micronutrient deficiency, and damage to intestinal lining, among other negative consequences of Celiac disease, and less risk of allergic reaction and possible complications,” she says.

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