Gluten-Free Diets: Avoid these Nutritional Deficiencies

Posted on by Paula Gallagher

Gluten-free foods

Gluten is a protein found in many grains, such as wheat, barley and rye. It helps give dough its doughy texture. Although many people can tolerate gluten with no adverse effects, it can cause problems for people with certain health conditions such as celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, and some other diseases.

The solution is to follow a gluten-free diet, which helps manage symptoms of celiac disease and other medical conditions associated with gluten. This type of diet also has gained popularity among people without gluten-related medical conditions because some claim improved health, weight loss and increased energy. In fact, according to a 2013 survey, more than 30% of Americans actively try to avoid eating gluten.

The most severe gluten intolerance is celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the body treats gluten as a foreign invader. The immune system attacks the gluten, as well as the lining of the gut. This damages the gut wall and may cause nutrient deficiencies, anemia, severe digestive issues and an increased risk of many diseases. By eliminating gluten (rye, oats, wheat, barley and spelt), most symptoms are alleviated. However, even after going gluten free, some individuals with celiac still experience chronic diarrhea, which can impact nutritional status.

Whether by choice or necessity, eliminating gluten from your diet may put you at risk of nutritional deficiencies, especially if there is inadequate variety in your diet. Anyone on a gluten-free diet should be careful about the following possible nutritional deficiencies.

Nutritional Deficiencies to Avoid on a Gluten-Free Diet

Fiber

Signs of deficiency may include constipation and increased cholesterol levels. Make sure to increase intake of fruits and vegetables, and non-gluten grains. If constipation is still a problem, adding a fiber supplement should help. You should be aiming for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day.  

Magnesium

Signs of deficiency may include fatigue, muscle pain, anxiety and sleep issues. Eating leafy greens, nuts, seeds, beans and legumes can help with magnesium levels.

B Vitamins

Signs of deficiency may include anemia, fatigue, weakness, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, numbness and tingling in hands and feet, poor memory and depression. Good sources of a variety of B vitamins include dairy, whole non-gluten grains, nuts, seeds, leafy green veggies, beans and legumes. A B-complex supplement may also help improve well-being in those on a gluten-free diet.