With a $44 million gluten free market on the rise and probiotics bringing in an estimated $28.8 billion, it’s understandable if you’re considering swapping Junior’s Wonder Bread with tapioca bread and their Go-Gurt with some living cultures. Of course, you might also find these food trends oppressive and annoying, in which case here’s some good news: a lot of doctors agree with you.
Gastroenterologist Norelle Rizkalla Reilly pointed out some practical concerns about going glutenless recently in an article published in The Journal Of Pediatrics. It turns out, unless a gluten free diet has been recommended by a doctor for a medical reason like celiac, then it’s not that great for kids’ health (or your wallet). According to the report, 20 percent of households making less than $30,000 a year purchase gluten free products, which can be as highly processed as less expensive food your spouse won’t let you keep in the house. Other studies have found that gluten free diets led to deficiencies in folate, thiamine, and iron, which are added to grain products by law. Reilly cautions parents against gluten-free products, where grains are often replaced with rice, which could put your kid at greater risk of arsenic exposure. She doesn’t have to also remind you that keeping gluten from you kid is also a bad idea because bread tastes awesome — you knew that already.
As for probiotics, maybe you’re thinking “Do I really want to feed my kid something that makes them poop more?”, but there are several marketed specifically to them. A new study out of the University of Copenhagen reviewed 7 randomized controlled trials of fecal microbiota (bacteria in your butt), and concluded that probiotics did not improve the digestive health of already healthy individuals. Dr. Hilary McClafferty, a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics and chair of the AAP’s section on Integrative Medicine, says these findings are applicable to kids. Though there has some been some evidence of probiotics helping specific pediatric conditions like acute infectious diarrhea, “for a healthy, thriving child, there is no current evidence to support the need for them to be on a daily probiotic.”
There’s plenty more research to be done on both gluten-free and probiotics as dietary aides, but in the meantime the important takeaway from the data is that health trends based on other people’s medical problems aren’t for your kid. And, also, rice pasta is gross.