Thinking about eliminating gluten from your diet? You’re not alone. According to a survey conducted in 2013, one in every three Americans claimed to cut down or avoid gluten in their diet. But if you’re still on the fence about adjusting your eating habits, here are some facts about why and how nixing gluten can improve your health.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a complex two-part protein—consisting of gliadin and glutenin. It is the gliadin component that causes the negative reaction within the body. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, etc. The word gluten has a Latin origin and means glue. Fittingly so, because gluten helps food maintain its shape, acting as a glue that holds food together.
How can gluten affect me?
Adverse reactions to gluten can range from light to serious depending on your tolerance of the protein. An estimated 1 in 141 Americans have celiac disease—a long-term autoimmune disorder that primarily affects the small intestine. Therefore, consuming foods with gluten causes their body to overreact to the protein and damages their villi which are small, finger-like projections found along the wall of the small intestine. If one, who is diagnosed with celiac disease, gets “glutened,” it can cause harm. When the gluten reaches the digestive tract, the cells of the immune system erroneously believe that it’s a foreign invader, like bacteria. The immune system then mounts an attack against it.
Gluten doesn’t only negatively affect those with celiac disease but others that may have a sensitivity. This disorder is much more common. You may have a gluten sensitivity if—after eating gluten contaminated foods—you experience:
- Abdominal pain
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Skin problems (such as Psoriasis)
- Weight loss
- Depression or anxiety
- Joint and muscle pain
- Mental blocks or brain fog
Research backs it up!
You don’t have to be “diagnosed” to have a reaction to gluten. The latest researches indicate the pitfalls of gluten consumption. One study links gluten to inflammation. This gluten-induced swelling can occur anywhere and everywhere within the body, from the brain to the joints.
Gluten may also negatively penetrate the barrier function of the intestine, allowing unwanted substances to leak into the bloodstream. This is known as the leaky gut. A study, published in Gastroenterology, reveals that the gliadin element of gluten hazardously affects the intestinal wall, permitting permeability.
Gluten can also be blamed for neurological diseases. In this study, gluten is named the culprit for causing depression.
Another study indicates that gluten can cause—or worsen the symptoms—of irritable bowel syndrome.
So should you nix the gluten?
Yes! Considering the possible, harmful effects and because gluten provides no essential nutrients, it makes sense to remove this problematic element from your diet. So say goodbye to gluten and hello to a healthier you.