It's #WisdomWednesday again, and this week I'm discussing gluten!
The gluten-free trend has been around for a while, and it is estimated that 8.5 million (in the UK) are avoiding gluten. But should they?!
First of all, let’s clarify what gluten it.
Gluten is the protein found in the endosperm of wheat, barley and rye. It is used in many food products, particularly bread and baked goods. This is because gluten has elastic properties, meaning that it helps make dough stretchy so that it rises when baked. Doesn’t sound so dangerous now right?
Well, it is if you suffer from coeliac disease- an autoimmune condition caused by a reaction to gluten. Coeliacs may have symptoms such as bloating, nausea, diarrhoea, wind and constipation. The only way to prevent symptoms is to adopt a gluten free diet, and that has to continue for life.
It can take time for diagnosis of coeliac disease and the process may involve a few stages- it is really important not to eliminate gluten from the diet until you have received a positive diagnosis. Coeliacs have an immune response to gluten, which means their body sees gluten as an invader and makes antibodies to defend against them (these attack the intestine wall causing the symptoms). So if you exclude gluten, there will be no antibodies circulating and thus none will be detected during testing. This may result in a negative diagnosis.
As the intestine wall is damaged by gluten consumption among coeliacs, it is important to get diagnosed in good time. If it goes undiagnosed, the parts of the intestine wall that absorb nutrients from food can be damaged, leading to malabsorption and eventually deficiency diseases like anaemia and osteoporosis.
BUT, if you are not coeliac, cutting out gluten completely can be dangerous too!
Cutting out groups of food can lead to nutrient deficiency.
Gluten is found in flour, which is fortified in the UK with nutrients such as iron, calcium and B vitamins. Since flour fortification has begun, reductions in the number of people suffering from deficiency diseases have been seen. Cutting out gluten also means cutting out lots of sources of carbohydrate (bread, pasta etc). Carbs are a vital part of the diet and should be included at every meal.
Gluten free products are expensive.
Many gluten free options are more expensive than traditional options (if you are coeliac you can get some items on prescription in the UK). Additionally, gluten is hidden in lots of products, like sauces, beer, salad dressing and soups. So cutting it out completely can be difficult.
There is no benefit if you aren’t coeliac.
Considering the hassle- why would you cut out gluten unnecessarily? There is no scientific evidence to suggest going gluten free has any health benefits for the general population.
So there you have it! See https://www.coeliac.org.uk/home/ for more info on coeliac disease.
Lots of love,
Little O x