Gluten free this, gluten free that…. Many restaurants are even now serving entire gluten-free menus, but what is gluten? And more importantly, should you be going gluten-free as well? Get the facts and make the choice yourself:
Gluten is a protein composite found in multiple grains, most notably wheat, rye, spelt, barley, triticale, kamut, and even oat. Gluten encompasses two primary families of proteins; glutenins and gladins. It makes pizza dough stretchy, gives bread its spongy texture, and is used to thicken soups and sauces.
So what happens when your body rejects gluten? Symptoms of gluten intolerance vary dramatically and may include excessive weight loss associated with malnutrition, diarrhea, nutrient deficiencies, and skin rashes. People of Northern European descent are more likely to experience gluten intolerance but a growing number of Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians are being affected.
Gluten intolerance typically appears during the first three years of life, after cereals are introduced into the diet. According to the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine: A second peak occurrence rate takes place during the third decade of life. Breast-feeding
appears to have a preventive effect, as breast-fed babies have a decreased risk of developing celiac disease. The early introduction of cow’s milk is also believed to be a major causative factor. Research in the past few years has clearly indicated that
breast-feeding and delayed administration of cow’s milk and cereal grains are the primary preventive steps that can greatly reduce the risk of developing celiac disease.
A simple test that works for most people is to simply eliminate gluten from the diet for several days and notice if symptoms subside. Reintroduce gluten into the diet and note if symptoms reappear quickly. If celiac disease is suspected or confirmed, the treatment is a gluten-free diet. Once the gluten is eliminated, significant improvement is usually noted within a few days or weeks by the vast majority of people
Other Health Concerns
It’s been estimated that one in 133 people have been diagnosed with Celiac disease. To those with this severe sensitivity to gluten, even a crumb triggers an immune response, which can cause huge gastrointestinal distress, nutritional deficiencies, and can damage the small intestine. If left untreated, these responses could lead to intestinal cancers as well as complications such as infertility and osteoporosis.
In recent years it’s become apparent that another gluten-related problem exists: nonceliac gluten sensitivity. This sensitivity can lead to similar celiac symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, and bloating, but unlike Celiac, it doesn’t damage the intestines. For years this health issue went unrecognized by professionals, but now experts are beginning to believe it may affect as many as 1 in 4 Americans.
Downside of Being Gluten Free
Going gluten-free is not a trend diet. Celiac and gluten sensitively are serious and should be treated that way. To blindly eliminate typical products that contain gluten is ill advised on a number of levels. For one, it can seriously reduce the number of foods you can eat and many of those foods contain essential vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And as I mentioned earlier, gluten isn’t used in just bread products, it’s used as a binder and thickener in everything from sauces, soups, salad dressing, soy sauce, even cosmetics and personal care items. Another thing to beware of is that gluten-free products on the grocery shelf use more fat and sugar to make up for the lack of gluten and make food more palpable. So it can end up being higher in calories – trading one evil for another, which food manufacturers commonly do.