Is Gluten Really the Root of All-Evil?
Submitted by: Kristen Golan
Edited by: Marcia Bristow MS RDN CD
Let’s be honest, everybody has experienced abdominal discomfort at some point in time. And today, gluten is being blamed for everything from unintentional weight gain to arthritis and depression; ushering in a new wave of individuals labeling themselves as gluten sensitive. Nearly 30% of Americans are buying into the gluten-free diet craze. “Gluten-free” does not mean “healthy” and experts are not even sure of what gluten sensitivity is. So, why are so many people labeling themselves as gluten sensitive and avoiding gluten-containing foods? The following will help get rid of some of the gluten confusion.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barely, and rye that individuals with celiac disease are unable to digest. Even trace amounts of gluten can trigger a severe autoimmune response. Some other symptoms include gas, diarrhea, bloating, stomach pain, and mouth ulcers. However, if you experience these symptoms, you cannot readily blame gluten. According to a leading gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, the symptoms may be caused by wheat sensitivity/wheat intolerance (a reaction to another component of the wheat plant, not gluten), or it may be something else entirely.
Before jumping on the gluten-free diet bandwagon, it is best to be informed if this dietary approach will serve your health and wellbeing. If you are concerned about having celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, contact your physician to be tested. Only then can you be sure that a gluten-free diet is best for you. Consumers should take note that highly processed foods with added sugar and fat tend to contain gluten, as well. It may be a better idea to eat more whole foods, such as whole grains, fruits, and vegetables instead of gluten-free processed foods. Also, there isn’t evidence that links gluten to weight gain, headaches, and other stomach issues. Dieting is trendy, but why cut out your favorite and healthy wheat, barley, and rye foods from your diet when you don’t have to?
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