Gluten has been all the talk lately in the health and nutrition world. Some people actually have problems with it, and some are just uneducated about it. Everyone does not need to avoid gluten. If you eat wheat and rye and have no problems with it, then you do not need to be on the “gluten-free bandwagon”. If you are someone who has digestive issues, it may be something to consider. Gluten has become very popular as of late because of all the processed food being consumed by people on a daily basis that the body does not know how to properly break down. People have had problems with gluten for years, some knew and some had no idea that was the issue. There are several tests can be done to determine how gluten may affect you (sensitivity, intolerance, disease) because each subcategory of gluten problems are all very different. Let’s dive right in and talk about what gluten is and who should be avoiding it.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein chain found in wheat, barley, and rye. The two proteins that make up gluten (when mixed with water) bind to each other to form a glue-like bond. This bond is what creates the elastic texture of breads and grains that allow them to rise and become oh so satisfying to us. It is this structure known as “gluten” that people with intolerances see as an invader which then wreaks havoc on their bodies.
Over the years, hybridization methods and genetic engineering have become more prevalent techniques to grow wheat that is fungal-resistant and easy to harvest. With this comes the fact that the crop is then much lower in nutrients and a lot harder for the human body to digest. Harvesting crop has now turned from being a family activity and business to a mass producing market of convenience and speed. Mass producers don’t care that the wheat is becoming less like food and more like artificial junk, they just think about how to create the most product for the least amount of money and time. Which is where the increase in disease and weight gain has come from.
Who Should Avoid It?
There are a few classifications of gluten intolerances, some more severe than others.
This is an autoimmune disorder that can be life-threatening for those who have it. When people with this disease eat gluten, their immune system begins attacking the villi (finger like projections) of the small intestine. These villi help us to absorb nutrients from our food, and when they become damaged it can lead to other health risks such as malnourishment, osteoporosis, thyroid disease and maybe even diabetes. Not only is this a very serious condition, it is also hard to diagnose. There is a series of tests and procedures one must go through to determine if celiac disease is the cause of their symptoms, and then they must begin cutting gluten out of their diet.
Signs and Symptoms
- It affects 1 in 133 people
- 3 million Americans suffer from celiac disease
- 83% of people with the disease are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed
- 100% strict, a gluten-free diet is the only way to control celiac disease.
This is very hard to diagnose, and celiac disease and wheat allergy must be ruled out first before moving on with the testing. 18 million people have been diagnosed with gluten sensitivity. People with a gluten sensitivity have some of the same symptoms of celiac disease, yet they do not have the intestinal inflammation, damaged villi or long-term damage. They can also have symptoms of IBS such as problems with bowel movements and discomfort. Gluten sensitivity was actually ignored by experts for a long time but now has its own official category in the gluten-related disorders.
The best way to diagnose a sensitivity is to just remove gluten from your diet and then slowly start adding it back in over time. If you notice symptoms return, then you know there is some kind of sensitivity in your system to gluten and you should avoid those foods.
Potatoes and potato flour
Gluten Containing Foods
Cereals (some, not all)
Hydrolyzed plant protein (HPP)
Hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP)
Modified food starch
Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Natural flavoring, fillers
Whey protein concentrate
Whey protein casinate
White vinegar or white grain vinegar
Dextrin malt, maltodextrin
If you are having any symptoms of gluten intolerance, start by consulting your doctor for further testing as well as beginning a gluten-free diet. Many people these days suffer from digestive problems; this does NOT mean you are gluten intolerant, it could be a number of things causing it. The main tip I can give you is to just beware what you are eating and how you feel after. If you notice certain foods that cause bloating or discomfort, stop eating them for a while and then add it back it. If it happens again, odds are your body just can’t break it down properly. It’s all about balance and how you feel. No food is worth the crappy (literally) side-effects. For more information about foods that are good or bad for gluten intolerance, visit eating well to learn more!
It’s hard to escape the newfound focus on gluten-free diets. But is this just a fad or is there another side to the story? This article at Health Ambition will take a deep dive into the real effects of gluten on the body.