You see “gluten-free” products popping up everywhere in grocery stores and hear all about the wonders of gluten-free diets, but have you ever wondered what gluten actually is?
First of all, gluten is used in many products, as a thickener or stabiliser. So anyone eating a gluten-free diet needs to pay close attention to labels, as once gluten is removed other things are added, such as sugar, salt, preservatives and flavours, to make up for the lack of gluten. Products such as soy sauce, salad dressings, soups, spice blends, baby food, breads and cereals are the biggest culprits of this modification.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a type of protein that is found in many grains. Most people know that wheat contains gluten, but it is also found in grains like barley, spelt, and rye. This means that gluten is found in any food containing these grains, such as most breads, pastas, cereals and more. Oats may also contain traces of gluten, as they’re usually processed in the same facilities as other grains. Nutritionally, gluten provides some protein, but it provides no essential nutrients.
The name “gluten” comes from the fact that the proteins become sticky like glue when they’re mixed with water. Ever make a loaf of bread or batch of pizza dough from scratch and get the dough stuck to your hands? That’s from gluten! It helps breads and other baked goods form a dough that is soft, elastic, moist, and chewy.
To get a bit more technical, gluten is made up of two components: glutenin and gliadin. It is believed that the gliadin protein causes most of the adverse health effects that people may experience from consuming gluten.
Potential side effects of eating gluten
Gluten can be very harmful to those with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease, where the lining of the small intestine is damaged. Gluten triggers an immune response damaging the villi, which helps to promote digestion and absorption. The damage causes malabsorption of nutrients, proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals. Even for many people without celiac disease, gluten can be very harmful to anyone with gluten sensitivity. Potential symptoms of gluten sensitivity can be very common and include:
- Abdominal bloating
- Digestive stress
- Chronic tiredness and fatigue
- Mood irregularities
Benefits of eating a gluten-free diet
If you are experiencing digestive distress, fatigue, or any of the above symptoms, you may wish to try a gluten-free diet and see if it relieves your symptoms. Many people report feeling much better, with mental clarity after eliminating gluten from their diet.
Relieves digestive distress
One of the most common reasons people try a gluten-free diet is to alleviate uncomfortable digestive problems. Since gluten can irritate the digestive tract, eliminating it from the diet is a great step towards relieving the digestive symptoms and giving the gut a chance to heal.
Gluten can cause chronic inflammation in the digestive system, especially in those with high gluten sensitivities and celiac disease. Eliminating gluten, and eating a healthy diet that is high in nutritious proteins, healthy oils, and vegetables and fruits, is a great way to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body, and to heal the gut and reduce the risk of further allergies.
Reduces fatigue and restores energy
Since the villi in the gut becomes damaged, the gut cannot absorb essential nutrients very well. Thus, those with gluten sensitivities suffer from nutrient deficiencies. Nutrient deficiencies lead to symptoms such as chronic tiredness, fatigue, and lack of focus, also called “brain fog.”
As a result of eating a nutrient rich, low or no gluten diet, you may experience more energy and mental clarity for retention of memory.
May help with healthy weight loss
Many people find that they lose weight when they start eating a gluten-free diet. One reason for weight loss may be that the gut begins to heal, so there is less inflammation causing fluid retention. Though, another reason is that it involves avoiding or cutting out a lot of high-calorie, processed junk foods and replacing them with healthy whole foods.
Bottom line, we should not rely on processed gluten-free foods that are most likely high in calories, sugar, saturated fat, sodium and low in nutrients. Though, also we need to nourish and feed our bodies with a wholefood, nutrient dense diet, to boost optimal health outcomes.
We are here to help bridge the gap with any nutritional deficiencies, via wholefood supplementation options, that suit a gluten-free lifestyle.
Check out our selection of gluten-free products and try a gluten-free diet today!