Goodbye, Gluten: Deconstructing the Wheat-Free Diet
Every few years, a fad diet pops up and takes the world by storm. A few years back, it was the Atkin’s diet that really hogged the spotlight and after that it was the South Beach diet and a few others that followed in their wake. These days though, one diet that is quickly gaining the limelight as well as tons of followers has to be the gluten-free diet. It really is crazy how so many people are in the diet and how many businesses have taken it upon themselves to cater to the dietary needs of gluten-free followers.
These days, you cannot attend a party without hearing someone mention their gluten-free diet or you almost can’t enter a bakery without seeing some gluten-free options. Why, even a trip to the grocery might yield gluten-free lollipops and other goodies. Yes, it is indeed a gluten-free world but this latest craze also begs some questions such as:
- Why are people going crazy over gluten-free?
- What exactly does it mean to be gluten-free?
Now those are just two of the main questions about this new diet and there are others that will be tackled here.
What is Gluten? Why Should You Be Free from It?
The funny thing about some people who jump on the gluten-free bandwagon is they really have no clear idea what it is they are freeing themselves from. They go to such lengths to avoid gluten when they do not know what it is and what it does. For those who want to go on the gluten-free diet, you really need to have a better idea about it so that you know if it is indeed something you should try or not.
One aspect of the gluten-free diet is eliminating any and all gluten from your diet but just what is this gluten? It might strike as some strange sort of monster the way people are avoiding it but the fact of the matter is that it is just proteins. That’s right, the dreaded gluten is proteins that come from wheat endosperm which is a type of tissue found in seeds—endosperm is ground to make flour. The gluten found in wheat is what helps nourish plant embryos as they undergo germination and when used to make dough, it is what gives it that elastic feel. Once it is baked, it affects how chewy the baked good is.
Gluten is composed of a couple of different proteins namely glutenin (a glutelin protein) and gliadin (a prolamin protein). Another interesting thing about gluten is that some people say “true gluten” is only found in wheat and wheat products but most experts agree that it is also present in other cereal grains like barley, rye, and crossbred grains as well.
What is so Bad about Gluten?
So far, the information given about gluten doesn’t hint at anything bad or evil. In fact, it seems rather healthy. The fact of the matter here is that gluten isn’t necessarily bad but it can be bad to people who are intolerant of it. People who should avoid gluten at all costs are those who are gluten intolerant which means their bodies do not really respond all too well during the digestion of wheat and other grains that contain gluten. Instead of just digesting the gluten and wheat, it actually triggers an immune response.
One of the most dramatic and well-known forms of gluten intolerance out there is celiac disease. It is rather common and affects 1 in every 141 people in the US alone as told by the National Institutes of Health. It might seem innocuous but when folks with celiac disease ingest gluten, their bodies trigger an immune response to strong that it actually damages their intestines and prevents the body from absorbing vital nutrients.
Some people who do not have gluten intolerance will still affect people who have wheat allergy. This is much rarer than celiac disease and it is actually a food allergy that manifests in the form of respiratory reactions or gastrointestinal reactions to wheat. Just recently, scientists have discovered another form of gluten intolerance that they call non-celiac gluten sensitivity. People who have this condition experience many classic celiac disease symptoms but their intestines are not damaged.
The Gluten-free Diet
In many cases of people who have gluten reactions or intolerance, doctors recommend a very strict wheat-free and gluten-free diet. This means they avoid eating bread, beer, pasta, salad dressing, soy sauce, and even soups. If they must eat these, they have to choose the ones marked as gluten-free. In fact, some people are so sensitive to gluten that even the slightest trace of it would cause them to have a reaction. Why, if their food was prepared on a pan that had traces of gluten, they would end up suffering for days.
That said, celiac disease is not a joke and for people who suffer from this disease, the need to go on a gluten-free diet is a must. They have to go gluten-free if they are to stay hale and heart. One thing to keep in mind about gluten-free foods though is that they often lack nutrients.
Gluten-Free for Weight Loss
While it is true that for some people a gluten-free diet is the only diet they can go on, some people go on the gluten-free diet simply because they want to lose weight. The reasoning behind this is that the lack of gluten also means they will not store carbs and they will also reduce bloating. The myth that you will lose weight on gluten-free diet is just that—a myth.
People who suffer from celiac disease and go gluten-free might actually gain weight because their intestines heal and they are able to absorb nutrients once more. Folks with healthy intestinal tracts and no allergies to gluten but choose to go gluten-free will lose weight since they will mostly avoid refined starches. However, if they still eat a diet that is rich in non-glutinous carbs, they will gain weight. What these people do not realize is that they can still eat wheat and lose weight; they just need to add lots of fruits, veggies, and lean protein.
Other Common Myths about Gluten and the Gluten-Free Diet
Now that some myths about gluten and the gluten-free diet have been cleared up, it is time to learn other myths about the proteins and the diets. Have a look at some of the most common ones below!
- People with celiac disease can cheat every now and then. This is the sort of myth that could end up killing someone. When people with celiac disease ingest any sort of gluten their bodies go haywire and their intestines take the brunt of the damage.
- Only grains contain gluten. Again, ignorance is not bliss especially when it comes to gluten and celiac disease. Some people believe that only grains and cereals contain gluten but that is not true at all. For one, gluten can be present in many medications and it can also be found in lip balms, and processed food. Bear in mind to always check the label for gluten.
- Asking about gluten ingredients in restaurants is enough. If you have celiac disease and you are eating out, asking if ingredients are gluten-free is not enough. You also have to ask about their pots, pans, and other cooking tools have come in contact with any products that might just contain gluten. You may even want to ask if their serving spoons and forks have been in contact with gluten.