Healthy Living

Aspiring Nurse Reveals New Research Regarding Celiac Disease

Aspiring Nurse Reveals New Research Regarding Celiac Disease

Kailey Gearhart, student at Penn State Worthington Scranton, conducts research study on celiac disease. Photo Source: Penn State. Photo Credit:

Gluten-free foods have jumped to the forefront of many people's minds. Stores have changed their shelves to accommodate gluten-free packaging. It has become a trend to avoid foods with gluten, even with individuals without an allergy to it. Many people are trying a gluten-free diet because they believe it is healthier. Gluten is a protein that is naturally found in barley, rye, and wheat. These products are not unhealthy for our bodies to consume. Gluten is present in most of our diets. Products that contain gluten are often consumed at least once a day. Most people are able to eat products containing gluten and have no issues.

Gluten-free market

The trend of going gluten-free is not inherently bad. The real issue is that many people do not understand why they are giving up gluten. People choose products that say gluten-free because it is printed on the package. They do not research what products are better and healthier alternatives. Gluten is not bad for our bodies. In fact, there are foods that are good for us to eat that do contain gluten. 

The gluten-free diet has been widely advertised. There are many people that say that their bodies work and feel better without gluten. Many celebrities have started to avoid gluten.  Since their lives are well documented the diet is popular among fans. As more people hear about gluten-free diets more people are trying it out for themselves.

With the rise in popularity stores and companies have started to market to these diets. Products have large stamps that say “gluten-free”. While this is very helpful for someone who is avoiding gluten it is not always needed. Many of these products never had gluten in them. They naturally do not contain gluten. People are purchasing products that say gluten-free under the assumption that they are healthy. Which is not always the case.

The gluten-free versus eating gluten debate is quite confusing. Foods with gluten can be good for the body, but some people feel better when they avoid gluten. Why would that be? Well, the answer lies in the fact some people cannot tolerate gluten. There are people that have celiac disease or a sensitivity to eating gluten.

Increase in Celiac Disease

These people benefit from avoiding gluten because their bodies cannot tolerate the protein. Less than one percent of the U.S. population has celiac disease. That is a relatively low amount of people that should completely avoid gluten in their diets. If a person suspects that that gluten is causing trouble with their body's functions they should discuss it with a doctor or dietitian. 

There are more cases of celiac disease being diagnosed. That is not because of a change in products or at the fault of companies. It simply could be that doctors are becoming more aware of the disease and the symptoms that come with it.

The key to feeling better with or without gluten is to focus on healthy alternatives to foods that we crave. Gluten or no gluten everyone can benefit from avoiding fatty processed foods. These processed foods do not contain as many nutrients as their fresh counterparts.

For those that need to avoid gluten because of celiac disease or a sensitivity there is not much research that is focused on the after-math of a gluten free diet. One girl, Kailey Gearhart, plans to change that. Gearhart is a sophomore that is on honor roll. She intends to major in nursing at Penn State Worthington Scranton.  She has attended the Northeast Regional Honors Conferences in Pittsburgh to present her research on celiac disease.

The research project

This research was titled, “Assessing the Nutritional Status of Patients with Celiac Disease.” This is a much needed topic for patients with celiac and those that are just being diagnosed. There is so little known about how a person's body reacts when they are completely taken off gluten long term. There are questions about the toll on their health in the long run. Throughout her research she was looking to learn more about the nutritional status that these people currently hold. She plans on furthering the research on the subject and opening the topic for more scrutiny to ensure these patients are staying healthy as they treat their celiac disease.

When a person partakes in a gluten-free diet but does not take care to meet their nutritional needs they could be doing damage to their body. A strictly gluten-free diet does not need standards for a healthy diet without adding in supplements. These patients need added vitamins and mineral that they are lacking be avoid these products.

This project was not only completed by Gearhart. She was helped by Michael Evans. Evans is an assistant clinical profession and assistant chief academic officer at Penn State Worthington Scranton. There were different options to display the research. Students were able to choose between a poster or paper presentation and a round table discussion.

Gearhart presented for information in a poster presentation. She was able to lay out her research and not only explain her findings, but emphasize why this issue is important. Even though she is a sophomore that is aspiring to become a nurse she handled her presentation in a way that impressed the faculty that attended the conference.

More people should be concentrating on the long term benefits or hazards of changing a major component of their diet. While people with celiac do not have a choice there are many people willing participating in this diet because it is currently popular. Patients with celiac work closely with their doctor or a dietitian to ensure they are meeting nutritional requirements.

The fight for celiac research isn't over

A dietitian can help someone choose the correct foods to replace gluten products with. They will suggest products that are healthy and full of nutrients to try to balance out what the person is missing. Without the help of a dietitian a person may lose too many nutrients and could find themselves sick or unhealthy.

As more nurses, doctors, dietitians, and students who have passion like Gearhart look at the tough questions more will be known about long term effects of going gluten-free. A gluten-free diet can certainly help someone that is suffering from gastrointestinal problems because of a gluten sensitivity. However, it is not a diet that is necessary for people to be healthy.

More studies are needed on people that have used a gluten-free diet long term. People who suffer from celiac disease or those that choose to be gluten-free can help others who are looking to cut gluten out of their diet. By sharing their experiences and what was difficult for them it can give insight into what works with a gluten-free diet.

With the correct supplements and choices in healthy gluten-free food people with celiac can lead healthy pain-free lives. They do not need to suffer from the gastrointestinal problems that are caused by gluten. Similarly, they should not lose out on taking in the vitamins and minerals that they need because they have to avoid products with gluten. A person like Gearhart is going to make a difference in the lives of people that live with celiac disease daily.