Gluten-Free: What Are the Health Benefits? with Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. For those who suffer from celiac disease, going gluten-free is the only way to prevent digestive issues, intestinal damage and even malnutrition. Yet gluten-free diets are increasingly being adopted by those without celiac disease as well. Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark, Integrative Family Medicine at NorthShore, takes questions on gluten-free diets. Are there benefits for those without celiac disease? What does it mean to be gluten sensitive? What symptoms might suggest a gluten sensitivity? Submit your questions early.Copyright 2016 NorthShore University HealthSystemPost at 9:23 AMBrenna: Our online chat will begin in 10 minutes. You can submit your questions now or at any point during the chat. This has been a popular chat already, so we apologize in advance if we're unable to reach every question. Find out more about <a href=""> Integrative Medicine</a> at NorthShore. AMPost at 9:30 AMPamK: is there a relationship between Ulcerative Colitis and Gluten? When facing possible surgery to remove the colon due to Colitis, should a Gluten free diet be tried? how can one know if the diet is making any difference?<br/><br/>Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark (NorthShore): While there is not evidence that gluten causes Ulcerative colitis, it may trigger symptoms in some people who are sensitive to it. Thus it may be useful to try a gluten elimination diet for 3 weeks to see if symptoms improve. There is no risk in doing so,a reasonable option. AMPost at 9:36 AMRomi: Can a gluten-free diet help treat Barrett's Esophagus?<br/><br/>Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark (NorthShore): Whenever I am considering an inflammatory disease process, especially when related to the GI tract, I always discuss an anti-inflammatory plant based diet. Of course this is most helpful to prevent disease, but it does have a role in treatment as well. Barrett's esophagus occurs after chronic insult to the esophageal lining, over time. Losing weight, and eating diets that are high in anti oxidants (like colorful fruits and veggies)are an important part of the treatment. A gluten free diet is a reasonable step as well to see if acid reflux symptoms improve. Since Barrett's is diagnosed by upper GI and biopsy, the only way to know if a gluten free diet is helping would be to follow up with these same tests with your gastroenterologist. AMPost at 9:48 AMJane: Will a gluten free diet help with hypothyroidism? My thyroid levels are normal but I continue to experience symptoms of low energy, cold intolerence, etc.. Do you think a gluten free diet will relieve help relieve these symptoms?<br/><br/>Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark (NorthShore): People with celiac disease (allergy to wheat) and gluten sensitivity often have gastrointestinal symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain after eating. There are people with autoimmune thyroid disease and other autoimmune diseases who also do much better with a gluten free diet, so I do utilize the elimination diet for 3-4 weeks as a trial. There is no risk in trying, but it does take some preparation so that you can be successful if eliminating the gluten from your diet. AMPost at 9:54 AMMargaret: I've read gluten contributes to inflammation. What lab tests can you ask your doctor to perform to find out if you have gluten sensitivity and later to monitor your inflammation levels?<br/><br/>Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark (NorthShore): There are not good lab indicators for gluten sensitivity. You can tested for celiac disease, but if this is negative it does not mean that you are not gluten sensitive. The best indicator is to try an elimination diet and see if your symptoms improve. This is the gold standard. AMPost at 9:59 AMNick: What are the drawbacks to going with a gluten-free diet? What is your take on the paleo diet?<br/><br/>Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark (NorthShore): The main drawback to a gluten free diet is the effort. One needs to prepare in advance by looking through the pantry and refrigerator and understanding what contains gluten and cannot be consumed. It is very helpful to have a cookbook or some recipes in place so that you have what you need to make the trial successful. Some foods labeled as gluten free are high in fat and sugar, so this needs to be considered when purchasing. That being said I have scores of patients who have done this successfully and felt better, and then were motivated to continue. AMPost at 10:02 AMBrenna: This has been a very popular chat. Thank you for your patience as we try to address as many questions as possible. AMPost at 10:07 AMCarrieanne: What is the best basic way to begin gluten free life?<br/><br/>Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark (NorthShore): I think that the best way to begin is to clean out your kitchen and pantry of things you can no longer eat. Removing the temptations will make this lifestyle shift easier for you. Next you can focus on fresh, whole foods- produce, grains, fish. Become a label reader and familiarize yourself with the hiding places of gluten. There are some great supportive gluten free living blogs online, gluten free smartphone apps that will tell you what you can buy in the grocery store, and excellent cookbooks too. There is a lot out there to support you on your path! AMPost at 10:15 AMMary: Some people eat gluten free to control their weight. Is that any risk in that?<br/><br/>Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark (NorthShore): A gluten free diet is not a good way to approach weight loss, if that is the goal. Some people who are gluten free do lose weight, but usually because they are consuming less calories overall when they eliminate wheat, like baked goods, bread,etc. The gluten free diet can lead to weight gain if one is consuming enough gluten free food, or processed foods high in fat and sugar. I would not recommend a gluten free diet for those looking to lose weight. A balanced diet high in fresh, whole foods and low in processed food, as well as an active lifestyle would be a more effective method. AMPost at 10:21 AMSusie: What is the difference between celiac disease and a gluten sensitivity? If it isn't an allergy issue why would some people's bodies react to it?<br/><br/>Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark (NorthShore): Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity involve two different responses to the gluten protein, which is found in the grains wheat, barley and rye. The symptoms of both conditions can be very similar, which makes it impossible to determine which one you might have (if either one) without the use of a lab test. We can check for celiac but not for gluten sensitivity with a lab test. Celiac disease occurs when gluten triggers your immune system to attack the lining of your small intestine. The condition is autoimmune in nature, which means gluten doesn't cause the damage directly; instead, your immune system's reaction to the gluten protein triggers the cells to mistakenly attack your small intestinal lining. The theory around gluten sensitivity or intolerance is that a persom experiences a direct reaction to gluten,the body views the protein as an invader and fights it with inflammation both inside and outside your digestive tract. AMPost at 10:29 AMJess: I had constant problems with bloating, gas, stomach pains for years and decided to try a gluten free diet a few months ago. All of the symptoms went away completely. I have been eating gluten free for almost 6 months, is there a way I can find out if I have Celiac's disease vs. a sensitivity to gluten? Do I need to find out?<br/><br/>Dr. Geeta Maker-Clark (NorthShore): Very important that you do find out if you have celiac disease, as this information can help guide your lifestyle as well as help your family understand their risks. This can be accomplished by a blood test ordered by your doctor. AMPost at 10:34 AMBrenna: Thank you everyone for your participation in today's chat. It was very popular, so we apologize that we were unable to answer all the questions submitted. Find out more about<a href=" Medicine</a>at NorthShore. AMPost at 10:35 AMBrenna: <a href=""> Integrative Medicine. </a> AM