Over the past 5 years, we have seen a huge boost in the relevance of ‘gluten free’. Whether being uttered by the health fanatic in the office, or the appearance of products in the local supermarket or on TV adverts- it feels like ‘gluten-free’ is everywhere.
All of a sudden, all food products that contain wheat are off the menu. In their place are gluten-free versions. Gluten-free croissants, breads, pizzas, so on and so forth.
The initial question is ‘what is gluten’ and ‘is it really bad for you?’
Gluten is a mix of 2 proteins called gliadin and glutenin, which exist in certain cereal grains. The popular misconception is that gluten only exists in wheat products, but the truth is that it exists other cereal grains like rye and barley. Gluten has elastic properties, which give baked foods (such as bread) that spongy, chewy texture. Gluten is what makes bread special. Without gluten, these foods would be brittle and crumble, and would lack that satisfying texture. Below is a list of some grains that contain gluten:
- Durum wheat
Who is impacted by gluten?
The most common sufferers are those who have been diagnosed with ‘Celiac’s disease’, which impacts 1% of the general population. Symptoms include: – Digestion problems (diarrhoea, pain, bloating), skin rash, anaemia, joint aches. Other sufferers include those with ‘Irritable bowl syndrome’ (IBT).
A large proportion of the general population has not been diagnosed with a form of gluten sensitivity, meaning he or she should not have any problems with gluten. This then begs the question, “If I’m not gluten intolerant, then why am I struggling with gluten products?”
The jury is still out on this, with so many different opinions flying around. The extent of studies on the subject is large, but the theories why people are suffering as varied. Here is a list of a few:
Bread quality has dropped over the years – More and more impurities are being added to store-purchased bread, and it is these impurities that are causing digestive issues.
Overconsumption – Bread is very starchy and sugary in nature. When consumed in large quantities, it can sit in the gut for too long and be fermented by gut bacteria. This causes discomfort via abdominal bloating and cramping.
Modern Wheat – Wheat itself has changed due to industrialisation and processing. Today’s wheat is void of nutrients and essential properties that used to make it suitable for human consumption
Regardless of what others say, it’s your prerogative whether to eat food that contains gluten or not. No one knows your body better than you, and if certain foods do cause discomfort – you should avoid. It’s important to educate yourself properly on suitable replacements for gluten because food companies are pumping out products which are claimed to be gluten-free, yet contain so much other rubbish. Read labels, ask questions and do your research. That way you will find truly beneficial replacements for your gluten problem.