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Gluten has become a naughty word in the nutritional world. These days, ‘gluten-free’ is equated to ‘healthy.’
Food makers worldwide have jumped on the anti-gluten bandwagon and have tried to capitalize on the opposition.
But what is gluten exactly, and is it as bad as people say? More importantly, who should follow a gluten-free diet?
Let’s find out.
What Is Gluten?
Though we use gluten as the name of a single compound, it’s an umbrella term for a wide variety of proteins (prolamins) found in wheat, barley, and other similar foods.
Unlike many other proteins, prolamins have elastic properties, which is one reason why gluten-rich grains are perfect for making bread and other baked goods.
Due to their solid structure, prolamins are highly resistant to digestive enzymes within the stomach. As a result, large protein structures (also known as peptides) pass through the small intestine wall and go into the rest of the body.
In some individuals, this can trigger immune responses that are related to some gluten conditions.
Is Gluten Bad For You?
Many health and wellness-related experts and communities out there recommend that everyone follow a gluten-free diet. As a result, millions of people worldwide have forsaken gluten with the hope of improving their mood, energy levels, and health while also losing weight.
The truth is, gluten is not bad for healthy individuals but can cause adverse effects to those who are intolerant. For example, people with celiac disease (an inflammatory autoimmune disease) should avoid gluten as it can damage the cells lining the small intestine.
Wheat allergy is another common concern, though it’s most common in children.
People who don’t have a wheat allergy or celiac disease may experience adverse effects from gluten intake. This condition is known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and folks who have it typically experience fatigue, GI problems, and joint pain after ingesting gluten.
When to Follow a Gluten-Free Diet
If you suspect that you might have a gluten intolerance, you can temporarily remove gluten from your diet and monitor how you feel and whether the symptoms go away. If that’s the case, then avoiding gluten could be beneficial.
Several medical tests can also prove gluten sensitivity. If you want to be sure, going the extra mile might be worth it.
If you’re healthy and you’ve never found gluten to affect you badly, then you shouldn’t worry about it. Research is still in process, and several theories exist as to why we might want to avoid gluten. But, until we have concrete evidence, we can’t say for sure.
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Pierre and Nurlana
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