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Should I Be Eating A Gluten-Free Diet?

Published: June 28, 2016
Dear TeenHealthFX,
My friend has started to eat a gluten-free diet. She says doesn’t have celiac disease or any other health problems. She just says that eating gluten-free is healthier. Is she right? Is this something I should be doing because it’s bad to eat gluten? (My friend and I are both 15 if that makes any difference).
Signed: Should I Be Eating A Gluten-Free Diet?

Dear Should I Be Eating A Gluten-Free Diet?,

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder to gluten that causes damage to the digestive system.  Gluten-free diets are recommended for those who have celiac disease so that they do not get the symptoms associated with it.  Eliminating it completely if you do not have celiac disease is not necessary and is not considered to be healthier.  Gluten is not bad.  In fact by not eating gluten foods you may be missing out on some key nutrition in your diet.  

As a teen sometimes it can be tough to try and eat healthy and stay away from eating too much junk food.  It’s during this time period that your body is rapidly growing and changing, so it is vital to make sure you are getting enough of the right kind of nutrition.  To be healthy it is very important to eat a well-balanced diet.  This includes eating from all the food groups: dairy (milk, yogurt, cheese), grains (bread, pastas, oatmeal), lean meats (chicken, fish, legumes, nuts, eggs), fruits, and vegetables.  

Eating foods that are rich in calcium and iron is another way to help support your growing body’s needs.  Calcium is what your body uses to help with bone growth and strength.  Foods that are calcium rich are those found in the dairy group.  Being calcium deficient can lead to weak bones in adulthood and increase your risk for osteoporosis.  Eating iron-rich foods is especially important in females.  Iron helps to carry oxygen in your blood to your muscles.  Girls who have their menstrual periods lose iron when they bleed, and so eating iron-rich foods will help to replace what was lost.  Iron can mostly be found in different kinds of meat.  Iron deficiency can lead to anemia which causes tiredness, weakness, and headaches.  Getting enough of calcium and iron in your diet will help to prevent problems that could arise with deficiencies.        

Keeping well-hydrated throughout the day is necessary to maintaining good health.  You should drink about 8 full glasses of fluids in a day.  It is important to not drink too many sugary beverages, limit it to 0-1 glass per day.    

Along with eating healthy it is also essential to be active physically.  Exercising for about 30 minutess at least 3-4 times a week is good for you.  Being active includes going for a walk, playing outside, or bicycling.  Participating in a sport is a great way to get some regular exercise.       

For more information about healthy eating visit http://www.choosemyplate.gov. If you have any other questions or concerns, speak to your primary care physician or an adolescent medicine specialist. If you don't have a doctor and live in northern New Jersey, you can call the Adolescent/Young Adult Center for Health at 973-971-5199 for an appointment with an adolescent medicine specialist or contact your local teen health center. You can also contact your insurance company for a list of in-network providers.

Signed: TeenHealthFX

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