Chances are you know someone on a gluten free diet. It seems to be all the rage lately. But what exactly is gluten and why are so many people jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon?
What exactly is gluten? The answer is in it’s name. Gluten is basically the glue that holds food together and maintain it’s shape. It is a group of proteins that is found in many different grains such as rye, barley, and wheat. There are two proteins in gluten; gliadin and glutenin and when it is mixed with water it creates a system of proteins that has the consistency of glue.
Most of the population tolerates gluten with no issues, however, it can affect certain people with wheat allergies or celiac disease. The most serious form of gluten intolerance affects those who have celiac disease. This disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that affects an estimated one in 100 people worldwide. When someone who is celiac eats gluten, their body sends an immune response which attacks the small intestine. Over time, the lining of the small intestine becomes damaged which prevents the organ from absorbing nutrients. The only effective treatment for the disease is to avoid eating gluten. This restricts them from many foods such as bread, pasta, and beer. This can lead to diarrhea, weight loss, and sometimes serious complications.
The number of Americans who are on a gluten-free diet exceeds the number of people who suffer from celiac disease by three times. So why do so many people who don’t have celiac disease think that gluten will make them healthier?
People who are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon may be wasting their time and money. According to Dr. Leffler who is an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, there are not many benefits for people are not celiac or gluten sensitive. He said of the diet, “People who are sensitive to gluten may feel better, but a larger portion will derive no significant benefit from the practice. They’ll simply waste their money, because these products are expensive.”
Gluten products are also often low in nutrients because they are made with refined grains. It also doesn’t necessarily help with weight loss. Heather Mangieri, who is a spokesperson at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics even said, “There’s nothing magical about eliminating gluten that results in weight loss.” Gluten is not just found in bread. It can also be found in foods that contain natural flavoring such as sauces or even toothpaste, which can make following this diet extremely difficult.
On the other hand, many people praise the benefits of going gluten-free. Some people claim it makes them feel less bloated, have easier digestion, and have more energy. While this may be the case with some people who try the diet, it does not always have these positive effects.
So what’s the deal? Should you stop eating gluten? The bottom line is if you feel you have an intolerance to gluten, you should consult a doctor before you make any sudden changes in your diet. First, they can determine if you have celiac disease and if you don’t, they can check if you’re gluten intolerant.