Every time the word gluten is mentioned, an angel loses its mind! That’s because the topic has been a maddening one to take part in over the past 5 – 10 years.
There’s no denying that following a gluten-free diet has been one of the biggest health trends of the past decade. Health experts tout the benefits of going gluten-free while celebrities exalt the diet, causing the masses to give up some of their favorite foods.
But is it really necessary? Is gluten-free a good idea for everybody or just some? Let’s take a bite out of this topic once and for all and find out!
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a term that refers to a collection of different proteins that can be found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale – a mix of rye and wheat. These gluten proteins are almost rubber-like and they are what gives bread its chewy texture.
So, What’s the Deal?
Gluten proteins are highly impervious to your body’s protease enzymes – these are what break down protein in your body’s digestive tract. When your body isn’t able to adequately break down protein, this results in an abundance of amino acids (what proteins are made of) being released from your small intestine to the rest of your body. This then triggers various immune responses that are responsible for a variety of gluten-related conditions, including celiac disease.
What is Celiac Disease, Exactly?
Celiac disease is an inflammatory autoimmune disease caused by both genetic and environmental factors. It is estimated that roughly 1% of our entire global population is impacted by celiac disease.
When they ingest foods with gluten, people with celiac disease experience damage to the lining of their small intestine, which leads to the inflammatory response I just mentioned as well as nutrient malabsorption, weight loss, and diarrhea.
So, as we can see, it makes sense for people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease to follow a gluten-free diet. But who else may benefit from this diet?
Those that have gluten intolerance. The most common form of this is a wheat allergy, which is more common in children than adults. Symptoms of a wheat allergy include mild nausea to severe, life-threatening anaphylaxis — an allergic reaction that can cause difficulty breathing — after ingesting wheat or inhaling wheat flour.
Some people may also have non-celiac gluten sensitivities. In fact, a large portion of the population without celiac disease or an official wheat allergy still report symptoms after consuming products containing gluten. These people typically report experiencing stomach pain, headaches, and lethargy after consuming gluten.
Should Everyone Avoid Gluten?
There are many people, as you can see, that may benefit from cutting gluten foods out of their diet. But is it necessary for everyone to do so? There are some who feel that since agriculture, and the eating of gluten-rich foods, is a fairly recent event on the human evolution timeline, that our bodies may simply not be equipped to digest these grain proteins adequately enough.
The best thing to do is to try cutting out gluten from your diet and see how you feel. Do you notice any positive changes? Do you have any allergy symptoms? Does your skin clear? Aches and pains go away? If so, you may want to consider going gluten-free permanently. If you don’t notice any real benefits, then you may be someone that does fine eating gluten.
Since the verdict is not out completely, everyone must be their own advocate and really test to see how they feel. When it comes to gluten, there is definitely no one-size-fits-all approach.