What is Gluten, and should you be eating it?

Gluten is a combination of two proteins.  These 2 proteins are Gliadin and Glutenin, which together equal gluten.  Gluten is found in wheat, barley and rye.  Gluten is the ingredient which gives food like breads and pastas their glue-like chewiness.  It makes dough stretchy, gives bread spongy texture.

What is the controversy over gluten?

Gluten is not detrimental or essential to health.  Studies are limited, so cutting out gluten is not necessarily the healthier choice for the average person.  Those with CELIAC DISEASE, a chronic digestive disorder, cannot eat gluten at all.  In those with celiac disease, when eaten, gluten is treated as an invader in the body.  This triggers an immune response, which causes damage to the small intestine.  Consistent triggering of this immune response will rob small intestine of their ability to do their job.  This is an issue because 90% of the digestion and absorption of food occurs in small intestine, whose main function is to absorb nutrients and minerals from food.  If damaged, a person can suffer from nutritional deficiencies.

Celiac disease is not to be confused with gluten sensitivity. Those with gluten sensitivity do not have celiac but suffer from similar symptoms when eating gluten.  These include:

§  Cramps

§  Diarrhea

§  Bloating

Generally, these people benefit from not eating gluten.

One important thing to remember is “gluten free” does not mean food is more natural, healthy or lower in calories.  Many times whole grains, vitamins, and minerals that gluten is combined with are essential to health.  If gluten is cut out, person must find ways to properly supplement the vitamins and minerals.  Furthermore, in gluten free products more fat and sugar is used in order to bind materials together.  Don’t “Gfree” does not equal healthy.

“G-free” is controversial because like anything else, it can easily become exploited. The gluten free fad has meant Americans spent $10.5 billion worth of gluten-free food products in 2013.  Some studies also indicate that, with the exception of people with celiac disease, the issue is not gluten at all.  This would mean that there is no such thing as gluten sensitivity or intolerance.  Gastrointestinal issues are therefore caused by other things, possibly similar to gluten.

What is most important is not whether to be GFree or not… but instead to try to eat clean and healthy foods regularly and stay away from high fat, high sugar, and processed good as often as possible.  Also, listen to your body.  If something consistently makes you symptomatic, try cutting it from your diet.  If that works to relieve your distress then stick to it. There is no same answer for everyone. Figure out what works best for you.