Many of have wondered what is “gluten”, is it bad, is it good and what’s with all this talk about it. Well, in this article you will learn exactly what gluten is and which are the benefits and negative aspects of a gluten-free diet.
You should keep in mind the fact that gluten is not bad nor good and it can create an intolerance to some people.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a mixture of proteins (gliadins and glutelins) that is found in grains (wheat, triticale, barley, rye) and which is not soluble in water and which gives wheat dough an elastic texture.
Of course, not all grains contain gluten. You can see here: quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, wild rice, sorghum, millet, amaranth, polenta, and teff. Oats are also gluten-free, but they can be contaminated when processing.
Certain people are intolerant to gluten, therefore, the gluten-free diet is the option for them. Why? Their bodies produce an abnormal reaction when starting to digest gluten.
The most common form of gluten intolerance is the celiac disease, which is hereditary. “Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine” (Celiac Disease Foundation).
Those suffering from this disease should avoid foods like bread and beer. Even the smallest amounts can create damage to the intestines.
Another form of gluten intolerance is the irritable bowel syndrome. This is another reason why the gluten-free diet should be taken into consideration.
This disorder affects the large intestine (colon) by causing abdominal pain, bloating, gas, constipation, cramps and diarrhea. It’s a chronic condition, so it needs to be managed for a long-term period. Some people may need medication and counseling, while others can keep it under control with a gluten-free diet and a healthy lifestyle.
Gluten-Free Diet: Benefits
A gluten-free diet makes a lot of sense to those suffering from the celiac disease or the irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). What about the rest of us? Should we go gluten-free or is this just a food trend? Are there are any benefits?
A positive effect of going on a gluten-free diet is the fact that it can improve digestion. That means that it can reduce bloating, constipation, cramps, diarrhea, gas and other symptoms. It can also improve your tolerance to lactose.
People having a sensitivity to gluten may not digest very well or benefit from nutrients as they should. For this reason, they may feel a lack of energy and low energy levels, tired or weak. Anemia could also occur. So what you should do instead of drinking coffee and/or energy drinks is to reduce/eliminate gluten foods from your diet.
Nutritionists say that gluten intolerant people may develop body inflammation: muscle cramps, joint pain, numb legs, skin inflammation (eczema) and even cancer. What you should do in this care is see how a gluten-free diet makes you feel regarding this problem.
- Processed food
A lot of the processed foods we sometimes eat contain gluten. What else do they contain besides gluten? Chemicals and artificial flavors. Just hearing these two words makes me want to cut them out of my diet.
A gluten-free diet obliges you to eat more vegetables and fruits which are a lot healthier (antioxidants,minerals, vitamins). It also makes you eliminate unhealthy oils and carbohydrates.
Gluten-Free Diet: Negative Effects
Some specialists consider gluten-free foods as being nutrient-deficient and that they can affect the body. How?
- Weight loss
Replacing gluten with healthier versions such as quinoa can lead to weight loss. This idea, which some specialists take under consideration, is that eating “healthier” can lead to serious weight gain and you might not want that.
Also, they say that some food producers use ingredients such as sugar and fat in some gluten-free products to make them tastier, thus deceiving those thinking they are eating healthy.
- Nutrient loss
Specialists also say that grains containing gluten also contain a lot of nutrients such as vitamins (B, D), minerals, fibers, and iron. However, if the gluten-free diet is followed properly and carefully, then there shouldn’t be any problems regarding the loss of nutrients.
- Brain activity
In this case, more studies have to be made, but there are a few types of research that say that cutting gluten also means cutting carbs. And since carbs are connected to the cognitive function and its decline, cutting gluten foods from your diet may lead to the development of certain conditions such as the Alzheimer disease.
Clearly, for some, the gluten-free diet is just a food trend and some people do not take their time to read properly labels and see the ingredients. They just go for gluten-free because it sounds good. And that’s too bad.
Would we feel better after a gluten-free diet? I don’t know. But no matter the way you feel, you should also consider the fact that some gluten-free products may contain a lot of carbs, calories, sugar and additional fat. Not all gluten-free products are necessarily “healthier”, but there surely are some.
Then what’s left to do? I would say keep a balanced diet and don’t think too much about gluten – reduce the gluten-free foods if you want to and see how will this diet work for you. Remember, we, all, are different and our bodies may or may not be gluten sensitive.