Gluten is a group of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye or barley and in food products such as bread, pasta, cereals and pastries. It is widely used as a result and often added to processed foods.
Gluten is widely used in the food industry for its glue-like consistency. It is gluten that gives bread its naturally pliable texture and it is present wherever flour is added to thicken soups or sauces for example. The body usually tolerates gluten perfectly well but it can cause problems to some people with particular health conditions.
Celiac disease is an auto-immune disorder where the immune system attacks gluten when ingested and damages the lining of the small intestine. It is estimated that approximately 1 in 100 people are affected worldwide. The most common symptoms of Celiac Disease are regular digestive discomfort, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, headaches, tiredness, skin rashes, weight loss and anemia.
The Celiac Disease Foundation offers an online Symptoms Checklist if you think you may suffer from the condition.
Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity refers to a condition where people who have tested negative for Celiac Disease are still suffering from reactions to gluten. It is estimated that up to 15% of the population may suffer from a gluten intolerance and still remain undiagnosed. Symptoms resemble those for Celiac Disease but may be more subdued and do not have the more serious consequences associated with it. Chronic digestive discomfort is the most common indication of a gluten intolerance.
Furthermore, studies have recently shown that a diet free from gluten may also benefit some people suffering from IBS.
You should consult a doctor who will test for Celiac Disease if you think you are having a negative reaction to gluten. Having this done and returned negative, a gluten-free diet may help determine if you are gluten intolerant. Remove gluten from your diet for a couple of weeks and see if you can notice any improvement. Re-introduce gluten into your diet and check if symptoms return. If you cannot notice any difference, gluten probably is not the problem.
You will find gluten most commonly in Wheat, Spelt, Rye and Barley containing food products such as bread, pasta, cereals, beer and pastries. Product labels will indicate whether they contain some ingredients such as Wheat which is often added to processed foods. Naturally gluten-free products include meat, fish and seafood, eggs, fruits and vegetables, dairy products, rice, nuts and fats such as oil and butter.
You need to be aware that these foods when processed may have gluten added so always read the label before purchase.
There has been no harmful effects recorded to date associated with a gluten-free diet. Any nutrients that may be missed by cutting gluten out of your diet is readily available through other foods when following a balanced diet. Although as for any particular diet, it is always recommended to keep check of your intake and supplement with vitamins if needed.
We would like to thank the Celiac Disease Foundation and Medical News Today from which we took online references in the making of this article. We recommend visiting a doctor if suffering from any of the symptoms stated above.