Gluten. It’s everywhere these days. Actually, it isn’t everywhere these days, too, thanks to the spate of gluten-free products that have begun popping up. The trend has been bolstered by celebrities who attribute ditching gluten to looking and feeling great.

What is this mysterious gluten and what does it do?
Gluten — a protein found in wheat and certain grains — can cause serious health problems for those with celiac disease. For people with the autoimmune condition, gluten causes the small intestine to become inflamed, which prevents the absorption of nutrients. Symptoms range from abdominal pain to nausea to constipation and diarrhea.

It’s possible to have a gluten sensitivity, even without a celiac disease diagnosis. Though the symptoms are similar, they are usually less severe. Irritable bowel syndrome has a similar list of effects, but going gluten-free won’t alleviate them. According to a paper published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, there is no standard definition for gluten sensitivity or “nonceliac gluten intolerance,” and the authors of the paper aren’t convinced that getting rid of gluten will alleviate these conditions.

Stars who go without gluten
According to the site for her book The G Free Diet, The View’s Elizabeth Hasselbeck “diagnosed herself with celiac disease (she was later formally diagnosed by Dr. Peter Green).” When Miley Cyrus stepped out in a little black dress back in April, she said her dramatic weight loss was thanks to going gluten-free. “For everyone calling me anorexic, I have a gluten and lactose allergy,” she tweeted. “It’s not about weight it’s about health. Gluten is crapppp anyway!”  Zooey Deschanel also has allergies to wheat, dairy, and eggs. She’s not really vegan, but she is gluten-free. However, it’s not just stars with diseases and allergies who are giving up gluten.

Kim Kardashian tweeted an old photo of herself on May 4 with the caption, “Gluten free is the way to be....OH Hiiiiiiiiiiii.” (We’ll assume the photo she posted later in the day was string cheese and gluten-free lavash.) Selma Blair didn’t want to give up pancakes during her pregnancy, so she told People magazine that she stuck to the gluten-free variety. However, when red velvet pancakes are on the menu, Jessica Alba falls off the “gluten-free wagon,” according to her Twitter. Visiting Gwyneth Paltrow’s site, Goop, gives you access to all kinds of gluten-free recipes. Practically the entire Bachelor nation is jumping on the no-gluten train.

Is gluten-free for me?
If all these famous people are shunning gluten, it means it’s safe and effective, right? Well, not entirely. "There’s absolutely no evidence that a gluten-free diet promotes weight loss," registered dietitian Karen Ansel told MSNBC. "However, there is data that indicates that following a gluten-free diet can result in a diet that's low in key nutrients — especially iron, zinc, and B vitamins such as folate and niacin.”

For those with celiac disease, eating gluten is not an option. But their doctors will likely give them advice on how to compensate for any nutrients they’ll lose by cutting out gluten-laden foods from their diet. The bottom line? If you think you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, talk to your doctor and don’t expect a weight-loss miracle if you’re eating gluten-free layer bars that have 10 grams of fat and 185 calories a pop.

Sources: Twitter, Annals of Internal Medicine, Time, MSNBC, People magazine

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