It seems like you can’t turn on a cooking show these days without seeing another celebrity chef preparing a gluten-free recipe. One quick look at the aisle of any grocery store is equally likely to convince you that the entire world has gone gluten-free. Wonder why so many people are headed in this direction in terms of nutrition? The answer is more complicated than you think.
What is Gluten?
Before you can understand the reason so many people have moved toward a gluten-free lifestyle, it’s important to understand exactly what gluten is. It’s actually just a type of protein that can be found in some foods, including wheat, barley, and rye. It’s role in the plant, though, is storage, so it can only be found in mature versions of the plat itself. In the greener versions, it doesn’t occur at all. While barley grass juice is perfectly safe for someone on a gluten-free diet, barley itself isn’t.
Who is Going Gluten-Free?
This is a bit of a trick question, because it seems like everyone is these days, but it’s primarily those with Celiac disease. This condition causes the body to trigger an immune system reaction to attack any gluten. It can actually harm the small intestine to take in these kinds of foods, making it tough for the body to absorb any nutrients at all. In children, the condition can slow growth and even weaken bones. In adults, it can lead to iron deficiency anemia as well as osteoporosis. It also raises the risk of some kinds of cancers. It’s possible that the disease is genetic. The symptoms may prove confusing. They can vary from mild to serious. Gas and bloating are the most common. Weight loss is a big one, as is a feeling of fatigue and weakness.
Those with Celiac disease, though, aren’t the only ones trying to escape gluten. Some with allergies, like wheat allergies, work to avoid it as well. It’s also been marketed as a way to treat autism in children. It has even been touted as a way to improve overall health, tone up that cardiovascular system, and maintain a healthy weight.
Should I Avoid Gluten?
While it may seem like every product containing gluten is about to blacklisted, the reality is that if your body tolerates gluten well, there’s absolutely no reason to avoid it. Gluten free diets are great for those with Celiac disease. They can be helpful to those who have wheat allergies. It’s even possible that they’ll prove useful to those with other health conditions, but so far, the scientific research doesn’t support this. If none of these things applies to you and you don’t live in a home with a family member who needs to avoid gluten, you should probably stick with it. Gluten-free diets can actually make you gain weight and may pose health risks to those who aren’t required to follow them. Before you change your eating habits, be sure to check with your doctor to see if a gluten-free diet might be right for you.