Gluten – Good or Bad?
Going gluten-free is one of the biggest health and diet trends around. But what is the truth about gluten? Is it really that bad? And are there any risks?
Let’s start by looking at the basics…
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a natural protein found in wheat and other grains like barley and rye. It also gives elasticity to dough, helping bread rise during baking. It occurs naturally in many foods, and is added to other foods as a source of protein.
When Should Gluten be Avoided?
There are a couple scenarios where gluten and foods containing it should absolutely be avoided. The first is in cases of Celiac Disease. This is a serious (and often undetected) disease that prevents the absorption of important nutrients from food. Essentially, for those who have celiac, their body’s react abnormally to gluten, which leads to damage to the lining of the stomach.
The result is diarrhea, pain, and even skin rashes, in addition to problems with energy resulting from lack of proper nutrition. But luckily, it’s estimated that only about 1% of the population has celiac disease.
In addition to celiac disease, some individuals have a sensitivity or intolerance to the digestion of gluten. Much like an allergy, people with a gluten intolerance feel better when they remove gluten from their diets. Symptoms are often similar to those of celiac disease. It’s estimated that about 6% of the population have a sensitivity to gluten.
While there is no test for gluten intolerance or sensitivity, celiac disease can be confirmed with a blood test. The best way to see if you have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance is to temporarily remove all gluten-containing foods from your diet, and see how you feel as a result.
Should Everyone Go Gluten-Free?
According to medical professionals, the short answer is no. Going gluten-free means removing a number of everyday nutritious foods options that without, can lead to a deficiency in a number of vitamins and minerals, including iron and the B vitamins. Removing wheat from your diet also means removing whole grains, which have been shown to support a healthy heart, mind, and body. In fact, whole grains play a key role in the management of type-2 diabetes.
But, many people are really advocating for the removal of what from your diet, in order to support energy and fat loss. You can read more about it in my article, Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight. And it seems that there may be something to it, as reducing your overall carbohydrate intake definitely leads to some serious fat loss.
So What Should You Do?
If you do go gluten free, you need to do it right and spend a lot of time doing some research. Make sure you replace wheat and other gluten containing grains with whole grains that you can eat. Some examples of gluten-free whole grains include amaranth, buckwheat, corn, rice, quinoa, sorghum, millet, and many oats (although you have to be careful with oats, as many have gluten added).
You should also make sure you supplement with important vitamins and minerals that you may be losing out on by cutting out gluten. Taking a B vitamin complex, like NOW B-100, is a good place to start.
In the end, I don’t believe that gluten is really that bad. That being said, processed wheat (like white flour and white rice) is definitely bad for your health, and will only lead to weight gain. If you do anything, definitely start there. But give gluten-free some serious thought before making any decisions. Do your research!
Have any questions or feedback about whether gluten is really that bad? Please leave a comment below…