Health Myths – Gluten is bad for everyone

In Blog, Health, Nutrition, Podcasts by Wendy Christien

While gluten can be inflammatory, it is not bad for everyone. 

People who have auto-immune diseases, inflammatory bowel conditions such as Celiac disease, or allergies to gluten should avoid gluten. People with various forms of irritable bowel syndrome would also benefit from following a gluten-free diet.

Gluten is a protein which occurs naturally in grains such as wheat, rye and barley.

It is a sticky binder that holds foods together and makes breads and doughs airy, light, and stretchy. Glutenous grains provide fiber for the beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract.

A gluten-free diet can be a healthy lifestyle choice for most people because it does not exclude major food groups and still allows for a well-rounded nutritional balance. 

Foods that are naturally free of gluten include lean meats, poultry, fish and seafood, dairy products, eggs, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats, nuts and seeds, starchy carbohydrates in the form of rice, oats, potatoes, maize, sweet potatoes, quinoa, butternut, and pumpkin.

Should you want or need to replace gluten in your diet, be careful of consuming too many sugars, unhealthy fats, and refined carbohydrates in its place. Many gluten-free flours have a much higher glycemic index so can contribute to blood sugar imbalances if consumed in excess. My advice when going gluten free is to replace the meal with something completely different as opposed to trying to replace it with a gluten free option. E.g., instead of spaghetti bolognaise, go for cottage pie or instead of a sandwich, go for a salad or a soup. This can be a more economical option as well.

Severe cases require zero exposure to gluten. Gluten can be found in many make-up products, and lipsticks so if you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease or any other condition where you need to avoid gluten completely be aware of its hidden sources as well.

The average person that does not have any adverse health concerns should be able to consume gluten containing products, however when breakfast, lunch, supper, and snacks all contain gluten in some form or another we may find that we are over consuming it and it could be the thing that prevents you from feeling your best every day.

Gluten becomes a problem when the body views it as a toxin and reacts in a way that causes a symptom or set of symptoms.

The immune system overreacts, creating inflammation which can cause a person to feel mild to severe side effects including fatigue, bloating, diarrhea or constipation, weight loss or gain, malnutrition, and intestinal damage. People with gluten intolerances can also have a higher risk for osteoporosis because of the compromised absorption of the vital nutrients necessary to maintain bone density.

Many people experience the negative effects of gluten consumption yet have no formal diagnosis. In cases like this avoidance of gluten usually resolves symptoms and improves the person’s quality of life. Some people only have a wheat allergy, which means that they react to one of the proteins in wheat – either albumin, gluten, gliadin, or globulin. This can be tested in a blood test, otherwise eliminating it from the diet for four to six weeks and then reintroducing it could also be enough to provide clarification. Some of the symptoms associated with a wheat allergy include swelling or itching of the mouth or throat, hives, itchy eyes, shortness of breath, asthma, nausea, diarrhea, cramps, or if severe, anaphylaxis.

While a gluten free option may be a necessity for some, it can also be a choice for others. It is not necessary a healthier lifestyle, especially if not replaced with nutritious options, but there are many more options available these days that make it easier to follow. 

Listen to my interview with Brad Kirsten from Radio Cape Pulpit on 10 June 2021 to learn more. Listen to my next interview on Thursday at 7.45am