Gluten: What is it and How does it Affect Your Body?

Gluten-free dietsWhat is gluten? Have you noticed that every guest on every talk show claims to follow a gluten free diet? Should you also avoid it even though you have no apparent physical problems with it?

Glutens are simple proteins found primarily in cereal grains including wheat, rye, and barley. When these grains are ground into flour and used in dough, the glutens they contain allow that dough to stretch and cause the stickiness and elasticity of the dough. You’ve probably seen a pizza maker stretch pizza dough as he twirls the dough causing it to stretch. The gluten in the dough mixture allows it to stretch without breaking. It also acts as a kind of “glue” in doughs, allowing them to hold their shape, examples include loaves of twisted bread or pretzels.

Gluten Sensitivities

This is a critical ingredient for many baked goods, unfortunately, for people with allergies or sensitivities, it can be a problem. An increasing number of people have developed an allergy or sensitivity to it.

This sensitivity, also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity or NCGS, describes the intolerance to or inability to digest glutens. Recent estimates suggest that 6 in 100 (6%) of the world’s population is sensitive to it. People with NCGS often experience what they describe as “brain fog”, a mental fatigue or even mild confusion. Other symptoms of NCGS include bloating, lethargy, abdominal pains, cramps and intestinal problems including loose stools or constipation. The most effective way to avoid NCGS symptoms is to eliminate this from your diet, very similar to the way a lactose-intolerant individual avoids or eliminates dairy products from their diet.

Celiac Disease – For some individuals, simply eliminating it is not an option. These individuals make up an estimated 1% of the world’s population who suffer from Celiac Disease.

Symptoms of celiac disease are similar to those of NCGS, but more serious and permanent. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease which damages the lining of the intestines. When an individual with celiac disease eats gluten-containing foods, their body responds by attacking villi, the tiny finger-like projections lining the small intestines. The only way to avoid this reaction is to follow a STRICT Gluten Free diet.

Should YOU avoid it? Many who are Gluten Free or GF, are convinced that this is the root of all intestinal problems including “leaky gut”. If you don’t experience symptoms and don’t seem to have a problem digesting it, should you avoid it? People who suffer from celiac disease MUST avoid gluten, but should you?

Try it – Many who follow a gluten-free diet started because they were feeling tired, bloated or depressed. Many have found that eliminating this from their diet has resulted in improved health and weight loss. But, are those health improvements the result of eliminating it or do they feel better as a result of eliminating the processed junk foods, fast foods and sugars of the gluten containing foods?

Personal Choice Going gluten-free is a personal choice. If you feel that you may have a sensitivity to gluten or would like to see if eliminating it from your diet will result in better health and weight loss, try it. Be careful not to presume that all gluten-free foods are healthier food. As with any healthy eating plan, do your research and make the right choices.

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