According to WebMD, gluten is not inherently unhealthy; however, people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities often see benefits from eliminating wheat, barley, rye and other sources of gluten from their diets. Gluten, a protein found in various whole grains that helps bind and give shape to food, offers no nutritional benefits, but it is found in nutritious whole grains needed for a healthy diet.
As of 2014, a large number of supermarkets offer a wide variety of gluten-free products and substitutes. However, WebMD states that the basis of a gluten-free diet should be natural foods such as meat, fish, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains that naturally do not contain gluten. One reason why gluten-free diets are so restrictive is because even trace amounts can irritate and damage the small intestines.
A gluten-free diet is not inherently healthier than other diets, and misconceptions about gluten persist. However, for people with celiac disease, gluten prevents them from being able to absorb nutrients, leading to diarrhea, anemia and severe skin rashes. For others who do not have gluten sensitivity or celiac, eliminating gluten often requires eliminating breads, crackers, pastas, pastries and many processed foods, many of which provide essential whole grains that lower the risk of type 2 diabetes, cancer and heart disease.