Gluten is a popular subject these days due to the popularity of the gluten-free diet that people swear by. But, before you cut out gluten, let's look at some of the facts.
What Is Gluten? Gluten is a protein that is noted for its adhesive abilities that is able to hold bread together and provides a spongy texture. The word “gluten” comes from the Latin word meaning “glue.”
What Does Gluten Do to Your Body? Gluten is great for foods, but it is not always so great for the human body. It can cause a wide range of complications.
One thing that gluten does is inhibit the body's ability to properly break down nutrients from foods. This hurts the digestion process because having too much gluten in your system can lead to constipation due to the formation of a lump in the gut. The undigested gluten then tells the immune system to attack the lining of the small intestine. This can cause diarrhea or constipation, as well as nausea and stomach pain.
Eating too much gluten can predispose you to many possible health complications, such as:
- nutrient malabsorption
- nutrient deficiencies
- neurological diseases
- psychological diseases
- liver complications
- joint damage
What Types of Food Contain Gluten?
Gluten is mostly found in whole grain foods such as rye, barley, and oats. It is found in wheat varieties like breads, spelt, and farro. It can also be found in other products such as bulgar and semolina. Gluten is also present in most processed foods.
Gluten can even be found in places where you wouldn't expect to see it, such as soy sauce. If you choose to go on a gluten-free diet, it is important to always check labels to make sure the foods you are eating are indeed gluten-free.
Signs of a Gluten Intolerance
It is common for people to have a gluten intolerance. Some common symptoms of this include:
- abdominal pain
- weight loss
- auto-immune disease
- joint pain
- muscle pain
- numbness in the legs or arms
- brain fog
Signs of a Gluten Allergy
If you have an intolerance to gluten and you eat it, it will make you uncomfortable but is not necessarily dangerous. However, if you have an allergy to gluten, it can be dangerous to consume products that contain it.
Consuming too much gluten may actually lead to a gluten allergy. When this happens, it means that the immune system has produced “weapons” to fight the impact of gluten in your body. A gluten allergy is similar to other food allergies, as they are all responses to a certain allergen. Some common gluten allergy symptoms are:
- tightness of throat
- muscle spasms
What to Do if You Think Gluten is Causing Your Symptoms
It is important to talk to your doctor about your symptoms so they can determine your level of sensitivity to gluten or if you have another health issue entirely. They will give you a standard blood test first to help diagnose your condition. Once you know how sensitive you are to gluten, you can change your diet to accommodate your needs.
What Are Some Gluten Free Foods?
So, what can you eat on a gluten-free diet? There are many foods that are perfectly healthy to eat on this diet. Many people enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, popcorn, popsicles, nuts, rice, seeds, hummus, jello, cheese, berries, kale chips, yogurt, meat, shrimp, tortilla chips, sushi, quinoa, and lunch meat.
If you are concerned that going on a gluten-free diet will limit your food choices and make mealtime difficult, you will probably be surprised at how easy it will actually be. You can find a wide variety of gluten-free recipes online, ranging from breakfast to dessert. Doing this will improve your health and make you feel better.