Gluten: A benefit or harm to the body?
To gluten or not to gluten? That is the question that millions of people are now asking themselves. Today the signs are everywhere. You can’t walk down in a grocery store without looking at labels like “Certified gluten free” and “100% gluten free” on various products. But why is the recent obsession with going gluten-free is seen as a great health goal? Is it because the number of people with gluten sensitivity has increased or is it just a latest crazy diet modification that people just want to follow?
Let us find out if this is a myth or a fact. But, first we should actually know what exactly gluten is.
Gluten belongs to a family of proteins naturally found in grains including wheat, rye and barley. The two main proteins in gluten are glutenin and gliadin. Out of the two gliadin is responsible for most of the adverse health effects of gluten. Gluten acts like a “binder” holding the food together and adding a “stretchy” quality to it.
Is going gluten free (if you don’t have to) good for you?
Despite having some of the benefits of gluten a lot of people who don’t have sensitivity to gluten are buying gluten-free products because it is often believed that regular consumption of gluten can lead to some major problems. The following conditions gives a better understanding as why it is better to avoid gluten in diet:
Leads to Celiac disease: It is an inflammatory autoimmune disease associated with the consumption of gluten containing grains. The ingestion of these grains in those with celiac disease can cause damage to erythrocytes (cells lining the small intestine) which finally ends in intestinal damage and nutrient malabsorption. The most common symptoms are digestive discomfort, tissue damage in intestine, bloating and diarrhoea.
Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity: Some people report symptoms after eating gluten, even though they don’t have celiac disease. Symptoms like diarrhoea, stomach pain and bloating can be seen. These people are diagnosed only when they follow a gluten free diet.
Wheat allergy: This is more common in children but adults face it too. This causes an abnormal immune response in the body to wheat proteins and finally leads to an allergic reaction that causes difficulty in breathing.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS): It is a common digestive disorder that has symptoms like abdominal pain, cramping, bloating etc. Though IBS might be caused by other factors also but the symptoms can be easily alleviated with a gluten-free diet.
Celiac disease and Alopecia Areata: Both celiac and alopecia areata attack the immune system. For some there is no cure for alopecia but for others by staying on a gluten free diet, people often see hair growth returning to the bald patches.
Now let’s see what are the gluten free products that can help prevent all these conditions.
- Gluten free cornflakes - This can easily be used as a breakfast cereal.
- Gluten free rusk- This can be consumed with tea in the morning.
- Gluten free multigrain flour- Best option for people with gluten sensitivity.
- Gluten free missi roti atta- A healthy alternative for most north indian people.
- Ragi flour: Healthy flour as well as good for gut health.
- Quinoa and buckwheat flour- Healthy alternative for fasting people.
- Gluten free cookies- Healthy snacks rich in fiber.
- Gluten free pasta: Healthy option for people who wish to eat outside.
So back to the point, following a gluten-free diet is a necessity for some. But for others the relationship between gluten and overall health is complicated and gluten has been linked to autoimmune, digestive and other health conditions.
While people with these conditions must start avoiding it, and pay attention to the fine print before putting anything in their body. For the rest, if you ever notice that you are experiencing issues like stomach pain, indigestion, constipation, bloating, etc after eating pasta or garlic bread or parathas, ten you should probably avoid gluten for a bit and see if it is a culprit. So next time when you face a question of whether to gluten or not to gluten, you must know what to choose.
Eat mindfully and stay healthy!