What are the drawbacks of a gluten-free diet?

Nancee Jaffe, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
One of the drawbacks of going on a gluten-free diet is that it can be a big hassle, although gluten-free products are much more common than they used to be. However, these readily available products aren't always the healthiest choices. Also, finding gluten-free fast food can be difficult, and it's more expensive to eat gluten-free. A study showed that it's actually 247% more expensive to eat gluten-free on an annual basis than it is to eat wheat-containing foods.

There are also potential nutritional deficiencies that can go along with living a gluten-free lifestyle. Most gluten-free products are not fortified, which means that you could begin to lack important vitamins and minerals. In addition, gluten-free processed foods tend to be very low in fiber, and this can cause constipation.
Rachel Begun
Nutrition & Dietetics
For people with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity, following a gluten-free diet is the only course of treatment to relieve symptoms and prevent long-term health consequences. (We don't know yet if there are long-term consequences to continuing to eat gluten with gluten sensitivity.)

Gluten-free diets that focus on highly processed gluten-free packaged foods can be low in certain nutrients, including fiber, iron, and B vitamins. That's because many gluten-free packaged foods are devoid of these nutrients. To avoid these nutrient gaps, focus the majority of the diet on naturally gluten-free foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, gluten-free whole grains, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds, lean cuts of meat and poultry, fish and low-fat dairy.

Another reason to avoid highly processed gluten-free packaged foods is that they can be more expensive than their counterparts.
Judy Caplan
Nutrition & Dietetics
Lack of fiber is the biggest drawback of a gluten-free diet. Wheat is probably the biggest source of fiber in the average American diet. There are other sources of fiber available that are gluten free. Beans, corn, brown rice all contain fiber. Just because a product says it is gluten-free does not mean it is low in sugar, fats, or calories. Read labels and be an ingredient detective.
Amy Jones
Nutrition & Dietetics
A gluten-free diet can be more expensive (particularly if you are buying a lot of specialty GF products). It can also be more difficult to eat out or away from home. It is important to remember that any drawbacks like these are small compared to the benefits someone with celiac disease will have, however.
You might want to visit health-food stores more often, since these carry many gluten-free foods. In a regular grocery store, safe foods for people who cannot digest gluten tend to be located along the perimeter: fresh fruits and vegetables, unprocessed meats, fresh seafood, milk, eggs, yogurt, butter and unprocessed cheese. Other safe foods include clear soups, packaged fruits and vegetables, plain nuts, unflavored potato chips, popcorn and sugar. All grains aren't forbidden, by the way. You can enjoy those that are naturally gluten-free, such as corn, quinoa, rice, soy and potato flour. When dining out, be prepared to talk to the wait staff or someone from the kitchen about which ingredients are OK and where substitutions are needed. But take heart: An increasing number of restaurants cater solely to people with celiac disease.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.