If you’ve turned on the TV or browsed the internet for tips on healthy eating in the last 10 years, you’ve likely been exposed to a catalog of gluten-free trends on the market. The gluten-free diet, as expected, restricts intake of the protein gluten which is found in wheat, oats, barley and other grains.
The diet has gained steam in recent years, partially fueled by growing scientific research into chronic health conditions and partially by a food industry capitalizing on another diet that seems to be ever-increasing in popularity.
The research on health benefits of following a gluten-free diet is mixed. For sufferers of digestive diseases, gluten-intolerances or Celiac disease ( a condition where the immune reaction to gluten leads to inflammation and damage of the small intestine) it is advisable to follow a gluten-free diet. Indeed, for these individuals, this restricted diet leads to improved health issues and a better lifestyle.
However, for people without these conditions, there might not be any noticeable improvement in overall health or lifestyle by choosing to follow a gluten-free diet. (Staudacher, 2015)(Stanley, 2010)
Skin disorders, commonly associated with autoimmune activity, were previously thought to be linked to gluten consumption. Advocates of avoiding gluten have claimed that, oftentimes, a skin reaction like a rash due to allergy is likely to be caused by eating gluten. However, recent research has cast doubts on those claims.
Here is everything you need to know about gluten and skin conditions.
What is Gluten and Why is it Sometimes Harmful?
Gluten is a protein that an estimated 4% of the population have difficulty properly digesting. While Celiac Disease is the most extreme gluten-intolerant disorder, some have moderate intolerances or sensitivities caused by gluten.
In these people, symptoms of poor digestion are most common, including bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. However, the effects of poor gluten processing in sensitive individuals are not limited to the gastrointestinal tract. Skin conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis herpetiformis can also occur due to the body’s rejection of the substance and trigger a subsequent immune response.
Should I Be Concerned About Gluten?
Most people can safely digest gluten, so there’s no need to jump to any concern. People negatively affected by glucose intake are a minority at approximately 4-10% of the population.
Some gluten-free proponents have claimed in recent years that humans as a whole are intolerant to gluten to some extent, and that Celiac Disease is only the most noticeable impact of gluten. A recent study, however, proves this claim to be untrue. According to study results published in JAAD, increased gluten intake does not put adult women at increased risk for psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, and atopic dermatitis (AD). In the 26 year long study, over 233,000 participants were analyzed with data taken about their respective disease (psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, or AD) along with their food intake.
Hazard ratios calculated for the three diseases were 1.15 for psoriasis, 1.12 for psoriatic arthritis, and 0.91 for AD. Since the study showed no association between gluten intake and new-onset psoriatic disease and AD, the researchers concluded that their findings do not support restricting gluten as a means of preventing inflammatory skin and musculoskeletal conditions.
So, don’t feel guilty about indulging in your favorite bread-based dish out of fear of exacerbating your skin condition – the cause is likely to be discovered elsewhere.
At Adult & Pediatric Dermatology, we specialize in accurately and diagnosing the source of skin disorders and then helping our patients treat them effectively.
Testing for Gluten Intolerance
In most cases, undiagnosed underlying problems associated with skin disorders are unlikely to be caused by gluten intolerance. If you are concerned about Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity, simple and inexpensive tests can put your mind at ease.
Our doctors are knowledgeable in all aspects of skincare, including providing dietary advice to promote the healthiest skin possible. While some foods can definitely help or harm your skin, gluten is unlikely to be one of them. We’ll help design the best strategy to combat your skin disorder and restore your body’s healthy, naturally bright skin. Contact Dr. Kaplan at our Adult and Pediatric Dermatology office to schedule an appointment today!
Jimenez, A., Hull, C., & Zone, J. (2019). Dermatitis herpetiformis resistant to dapsone due to dietary iodide ingestion. JAAD Case Reports, 5(8), 713-714.
Stanley, Gonzales, Carroll, Nelsen, & Hakkak. (2010). Nutrient Intakes of Individuals Consuming a Gluten-Free Diet Compared to Intakes of the General American Population and Healthy Eating Guidelines. American Dietetic Association. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, A_13.
Staudacher, H., & Gibson, P. (2015). How healthy is a gluten-free diet? 114(10), 1539-1541.