Are Gluten-Free Diets Really Healthier?

By Joy Johnston

Singer-actress Miley Cyrus caused quite an Internet buzz by claiming that her drastic weight loss was not because of anorexia but due to a "gluten and lactose allergy"-and then encouraged everyone to go on a gluten-free diet for a week.

First of all, there is no such thing as a "gluten allergy" or "lactose allergy."

Read what Sharecare experts have to say on the difference between a food allergy and intolerance

I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance in 2005, after suffering for about a decade with vague digestive symptoms that became progressively worse. At the time of my diagnosis, I was 5'8" and weighed a pitiful 105 pounds. I always thought I had a great metabolism, but in fact, I was not adequately absorbing nutrients. Bottom line, I was a sick girl.

So I kicked gluten to the curb and within a week, I felt better than I had in years. My debilitating digestive issues were gone and my energy level spiked. My appetite also increased, now that the food I was ingesting wasn't making me sick all of the time. With my love affair with food rekindled, I gave myself free rein to consume anything that was gluten-free.

Do you know what it means to be gluten-free? Take our quiz

After four years of being on a gluten-free diet, I topped the scales at 161 pounds. I wasn't necessarily overweight, but I felt sluggish. While it was fun to munch on gluten-free versions of pizza, chicken nuggets, burgers, cookies, etc. the weight gain was a wake-up call for me. Just because I was gluten-free didn't mean I was eating a healthy diet.

Apparently I'm not the only one who gained weight on a gluten-free diet. According to Sharecare expert Mark Hyman, MD, "A study found that 81% of people suffering from celiac disease (gluten intolerance) who followed a gluten-free diet gained weight. That's because there is a common misconception that anything labeled 'gluten-free' must be good for you."

Now I strike a better balance nutrition-wise while remaining gluten-free. I'm focusing on vegetables, fruits, fish and whole grains and I read product labels for information like calories and fat, not just to see if it's gluten-free. I've dropped 20 pounds with this new approach and feel so much better.

If Miley Cyrus is enjoying health benefits from a gluten-free diet, that's great-but that doesn't mean it's the right health choice for everyone.

Elisabeth Hasselbeck on going gluten-free

Joy Johnston is a writer for Sharecare.

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