Gluten – Good or Bad?
Going gluten-free is one of the biggest health and diet trends around. But what is the truth about gluten? Is it really that bad? And are there any risks?
Let’s start by looking at the basics…
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a natural protein found in wheat and other grains like barley and rye. It also gives elasticity to dough, helping bread rise during baking. It occurs naturally in many foods, and is added to other foods as a source of protein.
When Should Gluten be Avoided?
There are a couple scenarios where gluten and foods containing it should absolutely be avoided. The first is in cases of Celiac Disease. This is a serious (and often undetected) disease that prevents the absorption of important nutrients from food. Essentially, for those who have celiac, their body’s react abnormally to gluten, which leads to damage to the lining of the stomach.
The result is diarrhea, pain, and even skin rashes, in addition to problems with energy resulting from lack of proper nutrition. But luckily, it’s estimated that only about 1% of the population has celiac disease.
In addition to celiac disease, some individuals have a sensitivity or intolerance to the digestion of gluten. Much like an allergy, people with a gluten intolerance feel better when they remove gluten from their diets. Symptoms are often similar to those of celiac disease. It’s estimated that about 6% of the population have a sensitivity to gluten.
While there is no test for gluten intolerance or sensitivity, celiac disease can be confirmed with a blood test. The best way to see if you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance is to temporarily remove all gluten-containing foods from your diet, and see how you feel as a result.