Are you also wondering why gluten free food seems to be so popular nowadays? Especially among yogis and spiritual inclined people. Gluten free products can be found at every grocery store now and previously exotic grains that lack gluten, like quinoa and amarinth, have become more mainstream. Why is that and what is gluten? And is a gluten free diet healthier? Or do you only stop with consuming wheat and gluten if you are diagnosed with celiac disease and therefore gluten intolerant?
So what is gluten (from the Latin word glue) actually? Gluten is a protein that is found in certain grains such as wheat, barley and rye. You can see it as glue that sticks up your gut, intestines, lymphatic system, sinus and joints. This glue can create inflammation, which causes pain along with many of the health-related issues we are facing nowadays including fibromyalgie, arthritis, asthma, ADD, autoimmune dysfunction, irritable bowel syndrome, all manner of gut issues, migraines and cancer. In addition, gluten can make you fat as well. So why is gluten used anyway? The purpose of gluten is to give elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape and often also adds a chewy texture to the product. In addition, gluten is added to foods that are low in protein and it enhances the flavours and thickens their consistencies. Gluten is also the glue that is used to preserve food for a longer shelf life. Gluten is mostly found in cookies, cakes, pastas, pretzels, crackers, pizza and most bread, cereals or baked goods. It is also found in less obvious foods such as soups, broths, sauces and salad dressings. It is rare not to find gluten in any processed food products.
The main reasons for developing a gluten free lifestyle are wheat allergies and celiac disease. Celiac disease is a genetic disease that is most common among people of Northern European descent. The symptoms are many and range from chronic diarrhoea to chronic constipation and include depression, irritability, unexplained anaemia, failure to gain weight, fatigue and early onset osteoporosis. The obvious symptoms vary among sufferers, but the problem behind the symptoms is the same: gluten intolerance or sensitivity. They are not able to digest the gluten protein called gliadin found in wheat, barley, rye and occasionally oats. Furthermore, people with celiac disease have problems receiving the proper nutrients from gluten induced foods and therefore are not receiving sufficient nutrients. If you think you have gluten intolerance, the first think you should do is contact your GP.
Besides as the only treatment for this life threatening disease (if not managed well), a gluten-free diet is becoming more popular in the food market and among celebrities to eat healthier, loose weight, improve cholesterol levels, promote digestive health and increase energy levels. Though, if a product’s label says it’s gluten-free it doesn’t mean that it’s healthier. The gluten free product likely contains as many calories as gluten options, because a gram of sorghum, corn or rice flour appears to be metabolically similar to a gram of wheat flour. So gluten is not necessarily bad for the average person, since people have been eating wheat, rye and barley for thousands of years. Gluten free living may elicit health benefits, since most gluten free products are organic products and this diet includes a lot of fruit and vegetables. Some people say by choosing gluten free food, you are eliminating countless unhealthy and processed foods that contribute to health problems and weight gain. Since processed foods contain chemicals that are not beneficial to the body and gluten products often have a high amount of unhealthy oils and carbohydrates. So a gluten free diet is not necessarily the healthiest diet to follow, because gluten free products can be just as bad for you as the ones with gluten. More important is to be cautious of what you put in your mouth and keep in mind that the less processed the food is, the better.
So what to do?
Scientists suggest that there may be more celiac disease today, because people eat more processed wheat products like pastas and baked goods than in decades past. In addition, those items use types of wheat that have a higher gluten content. Today’s genetically engineered wheat contains far more gluten than what our great-grandparents ate. The amount of gluten in wheat has climbed from 4 to 14 percent and it is used everywhere these days: as fillers and additives in everything from sausages to ice cream. So should we all go gluten free then? Most people don’t have any trouble with gluten and there’s the risk that in eliminating gluten, you will eliminate important nutrients that may not be replenished by other foods. People need fiber and whole grains. I would recommend to eat mainly foods that have been locally-grown and seasonal foods. In other words, stick to those common-sense guidelines of eating natural, unprocessed foods and heaps of fruits and vegetables. You may incidentally end up in a way of eating which is about 80% gluten free anyway.