One of the emerging dietary villains of the past few years has been Gluten. The term “gluten free” has been plastered on a variety of products like a badge of health, yet few people actually understand what gluten is or what it does.
With entire specialty merchants or sections in your grocery store devoted to “gluten free”, you may be inclined to join the craze. Yet because it is likely found in a significant portion of your daily diet, you may be better off not eliminating it entirely. What gluten is, as well as its health effects, can be found discussed below.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a section of protein commonly found in wheat, rye and barley. Depending on who you ask, Gluten can be blamed for hormonal disruption, obesity, lethargy, and a variety of other chronic conditions.
Proponents of regimens such as the Paleo Diet claim that because humans are not evolutionarily adjusted to grain consumption, Gluten is the primary culprit in various “Diseases of Civilization”. Yet because it is an integral component of wheat, it is consequently found in a wide variety of foods. Even soy sauce and processed rice can contain Gluten.
What Are the Effects of Gluten?
Gluten has been getting a generally bad rap lately. Various athletes have claimed that switching to a gluten free diet has caused varying increases in their performance. Yet most research seems to indicate that gluten can only cause you problems if you have certain medical conditions or have a particular sensitivity to it.
While this research does not adequately explain the claims of thousands of ordinary people who find themselves functioning better once they jettison Gluten from their diet, it is a good starting point.
Reasons to Avoid Gluten
If you have Celiac Disease, your body will treat gluten as a foreign toxin. As many as 1 in every 100 people has this condition, and rates seem to be increasing every year. Symptoms include nausea, vomiting, headaches, skin rashes, and abdominal pain when gluten is consumed. Most cases are undiagnosed, and you can ask your doctor for a simple screening to detect antibodies.
Other individuals may simply be gluten sensitive. Symptoms of this are similar to Celiac Disease, but there is no permanent intestinal damage involved. If your doctor eliminates Celiac Disease, and the symptoms go away after Gluten consumption is discontinued, then chances are good that you are Gluten sensitive. Do not stop eating Gluten before you consult your doctor, however, as Celiac Disease cannot be tested for if there is no Gluten in your system.
Ultimately, this is an area of research that remains quite murky. While most science seems to indicate that Gluten is perfectly acceptable for you to consume if you are not sensitive to it, there are simply too many anecdotal accounts to ignore.
Thousands of people are switching to Gluten free diets every year, and many of them swear by their new eating regimens. Ideally, you should get tested for Celiac Disease. If you do not have Celiac Disease, eliminate Gluten from your diet for a period of time and see if you do indeed feel better.