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Should you go gluten-free?

Doctors say there’s no reason for a gluten-free diet unless you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. But if you have regular digestive problems, such as recurrent diarrhea, bloating, or abdominal pain, or a history of hives, eczema, or food allergies, you may want to try a gluten-free experiment.

“If you exhaust all possible reasons why you cannot function, then [going gluten-free] is something you want to consider,” if you have already tested negative for celiac, said Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Avoiding gluten is more complicated than just skipping pizza and sandwiches. Many salad dressings, soy sauce, and other sauces are made with gluten. Wine is OK; some hard liquors are not.


It also takes at least several weeks to rid the body of gluten. Most research experiments that test gluten-free diets eliminate it for six full weeks, said Tim Buie, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, before slowly reintroducing gluten to look for a reaction.

People trying out a gluten-free diet should take a multi-vitamin with minerals to protect against vitamin deficiencies during the experiment, counsels Dr. Joel Mason, a professor of medicine and nutrition at Tufts University.

You should also track your response to each dietary change experts say.

But even if you feel better without gluten, you should consider that there could be multiple explanations, said Mason, a gastroenterologist.