Nutrition 101 | Gluten
There is quite a bit of hype surrounding gluten and the gluten-free diet. Chances are you know someone who has, at the very least, considered eliminating gluten from his/her diet.
Today’s post serves as a very basic introduction to gluten and its free-from diet so you can make an informed decision about whether or not gluten is right for you.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a stretchy protein found in wheat and other food products such as rye, barley, malts, and Brewer’s Yeast. Gluten is responsible for wheat bread’s fluff and the crispiness of a pie crust.
Gluten is a natural substance found in these products but like many proteins, some individuals are allergic to gluten and that is why the gluten-free diet exists. Yep.. it was a thing before it was cool.
Who should avoid gluten?
About 1% of the American population has celiac disease. This autoimmune disease completely devastates the digestive tract because consuming gluten creates too much zonulin which is a protein found in the small intestine. Zonulin opens “doors” in the intestinal wall that allow nutrients to pass through. For a non-celiac individual this isn’t an issue however, if too much zonulin is produced then these “doors” are opened longer than what can be tolerated allowing too many molecules to pass through the intestinal wall creating GI discomfort.
Additionally, the microvilli in the small intestine are destroyed by gluten thus significantly reducing the amount of nutrients that can be absorbed by a celiac patient. But, good news for 99% of you.. this does not happen to non-celiac individuals!
(Microvilli are tiny finger-like projections protruding from the intestinal wall that aid in the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from the food we eat.)
An unknown number of individuals suffer from what is now called non-celiac gluten sensitivity disorder (NCGS) and although these individuals will not suffer from a damaged small intestine, they can suffer from GI discomfort.
There is no diagnostic test for NCGS (a blood test can diagnose celiac disease) but an elimination diet can be done to find out if gluten is the cause of an individual’s GI distress.
You are responsible for your body but I would recommend consulting with your physician and/or dietitian before completely eliminating a major food group from your diet.
Gluten is not bad.. unless you have celiac disease or NCGS.
Moderation is an important element in any healthy lifestyle and consuming too much of any food will most likely result in some kind of discomfort. You probably won’t feel well if you eat too many apples but that doesn’t mean you’re allergic to apples, right?
Similarly, you won’t feel well if you eat too many gluten containing foods. If you have a wheat bread sandwich at lunch, eat wheat pasta with a malt beer at dinner, and top it off with a malted milkshake.. guess what? You just consumed a whole bunch of gluten. This may or may not be too much gluten for you and learning to eat intuitively will help you determine what the right amount is to consume on a daily or weekly basis.
Eliminating gluten from your diet may result in weight loss. Losing weight does not mean that gluten is bad for you.
Your friend, or cousin, or friend’s cousin may experience great health benefits from consuming a gluten-free diet and it is perfectly okay for you to not have the same results. You live in a different body and have different needs than him/her. Don’t have diet fomo. Do what is best for you, girlfriend.
That’s it for today’s post! I hope this quick intro to gluten helped you understand the science behind the diet and, most importantly, I hope it helps you make an informed decision about your own food choices.
Let me know in the comments what you think about today’s post. I love hearing from you!