Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Truth About Gluten

A few years ago, many people didn't even know what gluten was. Now, "gluten-free" seems to be the latest trend. The market for gluten-free products is exploding because many people believe that gluten-free means healthier. But what is exactly behind this gluten-free trend? Before you hop on the bandwagon, you should know this..

What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein composite that can be found in grains, barely, wheat and rye. It gives dough elasticity, helps it rise and keep its shape, and can give it a chewy texture.

A gluten-free diet does help people that have celiac disease which is a chronic digestive disorder that affects about 1% of Americans. To people that have celiac disease, even a small amount of gluten makes that body think it is an invader which prompts an immune response. This immune response ends up damaging the small intestine. This causes severe gastrointestinal distress and nutritional deficiencies. If celiac disease is left untreated, these responses can lead to intestinal cancers, nutrients being unable to be absorbed, and other complications such as infertility and osteoporosis.

The hype...
Gluten-free diets have become very popular recently. With the rise in popularity, many people are using gluten-free diets as a means to cure other ailments such as fibromyalgia and migraines.

Many people also believe that a gluten-free diet will lead to rapid weight loss. Mark DeMeo, M.D., director of gastroenterology and nutrition at the Adult Celiac Disease Program and Rush University Medical Center located in Chicago says "There's nothing magical about a gluten-free diet that's going to help you lose weight." Most likely the cause of weight loss from the gluten-free diet is that it drastically reduces what foods that you can eat. So when you have less to choose from, you are less likely to overeat.

There is another side to this. Gluten-free doesn't necessarily mean low fat or low calorie. Gluten is used to bind food together and without it manufacturers usually add more fat or sugar. Gluten-free foods are also significantly more expensive than it's counterparts.

Should you go gluten-free or not?
Yes, if you have celiac disease. If you are wanting to try the diet, know that it is very hard to find foods that do not contain gluten. Gluten is in more foods than you would think. A gluten-free diet can also leave you with nutritional deficiencies. There is very little reason to take this risk unless you genuinely have celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten. If you are wanting to eliminate gluten, you constantly have to pay attention to what you are eating. There no point to eliminating just some gluten.

Many people feel better after going gluten-free because they are eating whole foods instead of processed packaged foods.

Basically, if you think you have celiac disease or are sensitive to gluten, get tested.

Ansel, Karen. "GLUTEN FREE DIET." N.p., n.d. Web. 22 July 2012.

Jaret, Peter. "The Truth About Gluten." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 22 July 2012. <>.

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