Fifteen years ago, few people had heard of gluten. Today, more restaurants and food producers than ever are rewriting recipes and labels to leave it out. But what is it and what does it do to our bodies?
Gluten essentially acts as glue for dough. Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat and other grains. Gluten helps dough to rise and keep its shape by giving it elasticity. This causes the final product to be chewy in texture. Many people are jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon, claiming it has helped to aid weight loss and health issues, while others say it’s just the newest fad that has no real effect on the body.
The Instagram page @girlswithgluten pokes fun at the new craze. However, nutritionists and doctors alike are speaking out about the benefits of the gluten intolerant dropping gluten from their diet.
Gluten intolerance is not a food allergy, but a physical condition in the gut. In short, the undigested gluten proteins stay in your gut. Your body in turn treats them as if they are foreign invaders causing irritation in the gut. The irritation is from the flattening of microvilli along the small intestine wall. This leads to substantially less surface area to absorb the nutrients from your food, which can result in symptoms of malabsorption, such as chronic fatigue, nutrient deficiencies, neurological disorders, depression, skin rashes, nausea, anaemia and others.
When the gluten is removed from the diet the gut is able to heal and a plethora of the symptoms can disappear. Depending on the level of intolerance, (from gluten sensitivity to full-blown coeliac disease) properly prepared grains may be reintroduced into the diet. Conversely, this is not true for everyone. Some people’s gut may heal, but their bodies still cannot digest gluten. It is best if you think you may have gluten sensitivity to consult your doctor before removing gluten from your diet.