These days it seems like the biggest trend going on around the world in terms of health and nutrition is to follow a gluten-free diet. You can now find the words “Gluten-Free” on anything ranging from almond milk to Jell-o.
Gluten has become an extremely popular topic and you will hardly find anyone who hasn’t at least heard of it. But why are so many people deciding to follow a diet without any gluten in it? Is it better for your health or is it just the latest trend that celebrities started?
You can read on to find out. However, before we get into why a gluten free diet might be good or bad for you, let’s first talk about what gluten is and what kind of role does it have.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is actually a kind of protein composite that can be found in a wide variety of grains. The best known source of gluten is wheat, although fair amounts of it can also be found in rye, barley, spelt, and all sorts of other grains.
The most important thing about gluten is that not many people are actually aware of is the fact that the protein is actually made up of two, smaller proteins – glutenin and gliadin. However, the one causing problems for people is gliadin. When you mix some flour with grains which contain gluten and water, gluten is the thing that makes the mixture become sticky.
Gluten is also the cause of the stretching that you see in baked bread, which might not seem that bad when you first look at it. However, as you already should know you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.
Why Should You Care About Gluten
Something that you might find interesting is the fact that there was a recent study conducted by the New England Journal which actually scientifically proved that gluten can be the cause of about 55 different diseases.
This might come as a shock to many, but it’s the truth. Gluten has been linked as a cause to a wide range of conditions from fatigue and sores to osteoporosis and inflammatory bowel disease. Although the protein might seem fairly innocent at first glance and many people are fooled by the fact that just because it is a protein it can’t be harmful, the truth is much darker than this. You need to understand what gluten can do to you and why you should try your best to avoid it.
Inflammation and Digestive Issues
Gluten can cause trouble for you by making the body become inflamed, which can result in various effects, all of which are not pleasant. This means that gluten can not only affect your stomach and digestive track, but even other parts of the body that might seem unrelated such as your joints and even your brain!
The main problem people suffer from is some sort of inflammatory disease, this is the simple fact that most people focus on the problem on the outside. They usually spend all their time and money for the treatment on what can be seen on the surface, while the real problems remain rooted within.
If you have some sort of chronic health issue, or even if there is nothing wrong with you, eliminating gluten from your diet is likely to have an extremely positive impact no your health. This is not just another stupid trend that people follow just because celebrities have started it, this is something important and you should strongly consider the benefits of it.
One of the biggest proofs as to why gluten can be bad to your health is Celiac disease. If you haven’t heard of it, Celiac disease is a condition from which the affected are unable to process gluten. According to statistics the condition is extremely common with 1 in about every 130 people having it.
The people who suffer from Celiac disease are unable to process any gluten that they intake through eating and so the body rejects it. When people who have this condition consume gluten, they immediately suffer from an immune response which can damage their small intestine and could potentially lead to gastrointestinal issues. It is a very serious problem and can be life threatening if not handled correctly.
This is just one of the many conditions that actually disallow the usage of gluten as part of your diet, and so for many people it is much more reasonable to simply avoid gluten altogether instead of risking getting affected by it due to an illness they didn’t know they have.
What is even more interesting is the fact that gluten could actually cause harm to you even if you are not affected by any condition. There have been plenty of people with no issues that have reported a significant improvement in their digestion after they stopped the intake of gluten.
If you are uncertain whether you want to stop eating gluten altogether at once, you might try a different approach – stop consuming gluten for a week or two and see how you feel. If you notice any positive changes in your new diet, you might want to consider adopting it as a full time diet, and if you don’t feel anything you could try going back to gluten. Just keep in mind that just because you are not affected by any condition now, it doesn’t mean that you won’t become affected in the future.
Something that might help you strongly consider adopting a gluten-free diet is the fact that it could disrupt your proper brain function. Although it does seem unrelated at first, when you take into account the fact that gluten causes your whole system to become inflamed, you can be sure that the negative effects from this change won’t occur only at a single area. The whole body is affected from inflammation, and the brain is part of your body so sooner or later it is going to get affected as well.
You might find it interesting that more and more parents are actually helping their children address Autism with a gluten-free diet. There was a study that showed that the more strict gluten-free diet autistic children have, the better their social behaviour and psychological symptoms become.
Another thing you might not know is that scientists have actually already tried to find a link between mental health and wheat consumption. They have tested various conditions that affect the mental state of a person and have found very interesting results. There was one study that showed some schizophrenia patients actually experience a great improvement after cutting down on gluten. Finally, removing gluten from your diet might even help you reduce the symptoms of depression. Research has found that switching to a gluten-free improve young girl’s mood.
The main problem that stops many people from seeing what gluten really is can be attributed to the fact that a big part of society believes gluten can only be bad for people who have Celiac disease. However, what they fail to see is that Celiac is an autoimmune disorder that can occur at any point in time. Even though you might not have had it when you were 20, you might get it when you are 35. There is no way to predict when it might occur, so the safest option for you is to start a gluten-free diet now and thus eliminate any future, unexpected risks to your health.
Gluten and Other Health Issues
Even though Celiac disease is the most common condition linked with gluten, there is one that is actually even more widespread – gluten intolerance. A study in Australia showed that about 50% of the whole population had genetic markers that are linked to gluten sensitivity, and that is to one country alone. What’s more, even if you don’t have a gluten intolerance, this doesn’t change the fact that gluten can still be the cause of some negative effects for your health. Studies have shown that people with problems such as irritable bowel syndrome have had more bloating and pain when they were on a gluten diet than the ones who were on gluten-free diet.
Another big issue with removing gluten from your diet is the simple fact that most of us have been eating it for as long as we can remember. However, even though you might not have had any problems from gluten so far, it doesn’t mean you won’t be affected in the future. What’s more, you also need to come to terms with the fact that wheat and other grains have changed drastically in the last few decades. If you take the time to go online and read on the subject, you will find that today’s wheat actually contains more gluten and less vitamins and minerals than the grains that our ancestors ate, which can also explain why the percentage of people suffering from Celiac disease and gluten intolerance is constantly rising.
The bottom line is that you don’t have to suffer from any condition in order to be affected from gluten. It can be just as bad for you as for a person who has been diagnosed with Celiac disease.
Which Foods Have Gluten?
Most people actually don’t even know how widespread gluten is. This harmful protein can be found almost everywhere! Gluten is most widely found in a variety of foods, but what might come as a surprise to you is that it is also used in the making of different toothpastes, beverages, cosmetics, and even some medications. The only possible way for you to know whether what you are getting has gluten in it or not is to check its label. Better yet, try avoiding any foods that come in packages or boxes as much as you can. Finally, here is a short list of some of the foods in which gluten is most commonly found:
- Baked goods (everything from cakes to pretzels)
Keep in mind that these are just some of the foods that contain gluten. In order to be completely sure that what you are buying doesn’t contain any traces, always read the label thoroughly. Sure this might make your stay at the grocery store a bit longer, but in the end the most important thing is your health and so wasting 5 or 10 more minutes for it should be a sacrifice you are willing to make.
The great news is since gluten-free diets are becoming more and more popular, food producing companies are starting to notice it. This is why many have changed their strategies in a way to meet the public’s demand, which is why you can now find a wide variety of foods that contain no gluten whatsoever. They are creating gluten-free versions of all sorts of foods from processed to cooked.
Unfortunately, there is one more thing that people get easily fooled by – just because the label of a food says it’s gluten-free doesn’t necessarily make it any healthier. However, this kind of thinking is what makes people buy different forms of chips or cookies, thinking that they can get a good snack that is also healthy. You need to understand that there are still lots of foods that might be gluten-free but still remain junk food. The best way to make sure you are eating healthy is to read the label thoroughly, not stop when you see “no gluten”.
If you want to find out whether gluten is bad for you, try removing it from your diet for a short amount of time and see if there are any significant changes in your health or the way that you feel. Keep in mind that in order for this to be effective you need to give it some time. Although a week might be a good start, the best way to make sure that you are going to see any changes, if there are any, is to eat gluten-free for a whole month. If you don’t like your new way of life, you can start reintroducing it slowly again and pay attention to how it will affect your body.
Finally, if you are not willing to be in the fight against gluten, take into account the fact that a huge part of the foods that contain it also have other dangerous products that could pose a threat to your health. There is actually not a single upside to eating a diet with gluten. If you are not yet fully convinced, you could always go online and look for other information, or you could ask a professional nutrition expert what their opinion is. Make sure you understand gluten completely and you will realize why it is bad for you and why going on a gluten-free diet is the best course of action for you.