Grains such as wheat, barley and rye contain a protein known as gluten. Given that breads, pasta, beer, and even cosmetics and supplements are often made from these cereals, gluten is a common ingredient in these products.
Gluten-free diets are a hot topic these days, but should people actually avoid it, and is it really harmful? Here are some insights.
For healthy individuals whose bodies can tolerate it, gluten in and of itself – especially the form present in whole grains – is not harmful. But processed foods made from refined wheat such as white bread, pastries, and crackers bear very little nutritional similarity to the actual grain, and instead often contain ingredients such as rice flour and starch.
Many who switch to a gluten-free diet while continuing to consume processed foods discover they still have health issues such as weight gain and uncontrolled blood sugar levels. In truth, additives like salt, sugar, and sugar substitutes are to blame for these issues, not so much the gluten in food.
There are, however, some people who should avoid eating gluten as it could pose a direct risk to their health. Known as gluten intolerance, it could present itself in three forms: celiac disease, wheat allergy, and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Celiac disease, an autoimmune condition, occurs when the body’s defence mechanisms mistakenly target healthy cells, harming the lining of your small intestine. This results in nutrient malabsorption, intestinal damage, and symptoms such as diarrhoea and weight loss.
People with wheat allergy experience an abnormal immune reaction to particular proteins found in wheat and wheat-based products. After consuming wheat or wheat flour, they may experience symptoms ranging from mild nausea to potentially fatal anaphylaxis.
Celiac disease and wheat allergy are two distinct disorders that can coexist; and while children are more commonly affected by wheat allergy, it can also affect adults.
Gluten intolerance, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, is gastrointestinal discomfort brought on by gluten in those who do not have celiac disease. When a person consumes gluten, they may feel intestinal symptoms in addition to other triggers such as headache, exhaustion, and joint pain.
People with this sensitivity report improved symptoms after eating a gluten-free diet, similar to individuals with celiac disease or a wheat allergy.
A number of studies have also linked gluten to the development and progression of autoimmune diseases. Hence, avoiding gluten can aid other conditions, including inflammatory bowel disease.
So, which is healthier?
Those with gluten intolerance obviously benefit from a gluten-free diet, but even those without a medical condition linked to gluten have said to have seen advantages such as weight loss, increased vitality, and overall better health.
Since gluten is found in highly processed meals such as fast food and sugary cereals, avoiding it typically entails reducing your intake of such foods. Consequently, many have claimed to lose weight, feel less tired, and have less joint pain. These advantages are probably attributable to the absence of harmful meals.
People often swap out foods containing gluten with healthier alternatives like vegetables, fruits, and proteins, which improve health and wellbeing. Reducing consumption of carbohydrates, which can cause digestive issues including bloating and gas, may also help with digestive symptoms.
The bottom line is, it is safe to follow a gluten-free diet even if you don’t absolutely need to do so. But it’s also important to note that processed gluten-free foods are not any healthier than those containing the protein.
As long as you swap these products out for wholesome foods, eliminating wheat and other gluten-containing grains and products should not have a negative impact on your health.
A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, and lean protein sources can easily replace all the nutrients found in grains that contain gluten, while providing you with essential B vitamins, fibre, zinc, iron, and potassium.
This article was written by DOC2US, a mobile application that allows you to talk to a doctor or any healthcare professionals via text chat at any time and from anywhere.