The inscriptions on the packages “gluten free” and endless references to the anti-gluten diet make many people perceive the name of this substance as something terrible. But is gluten harmful as it seems from the outside? And is it necessary to refuse it?
What is gluten free?
Gluten, also called gluten, is an elastic protein obtained from the grains of most cereals. It is he who provides the cereals with nutrients in the process of their growth. Subsequently, gluten separated from starch provides the stickiness of the finished dough and maintains the necessary baking form. The taste of the products is also largely due to the presence of this protein. Gluten also serves as a preservative, contributing to the long-term preservation of bread and other products, protecting them from mold. This is a completely natural substance: only the method of extracting it from grain flour is artificial.
What is the harm of gluten?
This seemingly absolutely constructive protein is indeed capable of harming a certain category of people. We are talking about the owners of a rare genetic disease - celiac disease, or gluten intolerance. As a result of the predisposition, the immune system of patients perceives gluten as a harmful substance. Upon receipt of food, a violation of the state of the villi of the small intestine occurs, which, in turn, suspends metabolic processes. The body ceases to absorb beneficial substances and water coming from food, thereby provoking the occurrence of many diseases.
According to generally accepted statistics, approximately 1% of people in the world suffer from this disease. In addition, there may be special cases of gluten allergy with a classic clinical picture. For the vast majority of consumers who do not belong to these categories, gluten is absolutely harmless.
Refusing gluten is good for your health.
For people suffering from celiac disease - definitely. To all the rest, this measure will not only not be useful, but even capable of harming. Gluten is a nutrient component for plant embryos - this fact alone indicates the abundance of beneficial compounds. Protein contains vitamins, valuable amino acids, calcium, iron and other essential elements for health. Refusing gluten, you unreasonably deprive your body of the opportunity to get the right substances. And it’s a pleasure for yourself, because pastries devoid of this component are far from being so tasty.
A gluten-free diet is a good way to lose weight.
The effectiveness of this method is extremely low. Gluten is high in protein and low in fat and carbohydrates. The caloric content of the substance is also small - 370 kcal per 100 g. So that weight loss is more likely to contribute to its use than the absence. In addition, foods that dieters are trying to replace gluten with often contain far more sugar, fat, and other harmful ingredients. They are added in order to improve the taste, which are rapidly decreasing with the disappearance of gluten. Do not be surprised if, instead of the desired changes, you gain extra pounds.
Frequent use of gluten-free foods can trigger celiac disease.
Celiac disease is a genetic disease that cannot be transmitted virally or in any other way. It is impossible to infect them from another, or by using gluten. If you do not belong to a rare category of patients from birth, this pathology does not threaten you. Gluten does not provoke any other diseases either. On the contrary, it is believed that the use of cereals reduces the risk of cardiovascular and oncological diseases, diabetes.
What foods contain gluten?
The largest part (about 80%) of protein is contained in wheat, a little less - rye, oats and barley. Accordingly, gluten is present in all cereal-based products:
- Dough products,
In addition, the substance is often used as a “bonding” element in the production of products not originally associated with cereals. Gluten is added to ketchup, mayonnaise and other sauces, powdered and condensed milk, cottage cheese and curd products, margarine, cheeses, yoghurts. Also, protein is used in the manufacture of certain types of cosmetics, for example, powder and lipsticks. The use of cosmetics is allowed even for people with gluten intolerance, since the substance only harms when ingested.
Gluten Free Products
If you need to protect yourself from gluten, you can safely use the following products:
- Cereals (buckwheat, rice, corn, lentils, soy, etc.),
- Beans, nuts,
- Milk, eggs, meat products,
- Fish and seafood,
- Natural fruits and vegetables,
- Vegetable and butter.
In stores, you should also pay attention to the words "vegetable protein" indicated on the package - gluten is often hidden under them. It is better for those suffering from celiac disease to buy special strips that allow you to test any product for the presence of plant starch.
Celiac disease is very difficult to diagnose: it tends to disguise itself as many other diseases. Symptoms most often manifest from early childhood, but the diagnosis can be made much later.
Due to intestinal dysfunction, diarrhea becomes the main symptom. The inability to absorb substances leads to other negative consequences. In children, the disease can manifest itself in the form of developmental delays, impaired coordination, and fine motor skills. Due to a lack of calcium and other valuable elements, the condition of teeth, nails, hair is disturbed, frequent fractures are possible. Externally, there is a strong bloating with insufficient weight in general.
In adults, celiac disease is primarily characterized by a depressed psychological state, insomnia, fatigue and anxiety. Many patients suffer from anemia due to poor digestibility of substances. Women may experience problems with the reproductive and sexual spheres, cycle disorders.
How to be treated?
Unfortunately, drugs that can relieve pathology do not yet exist. The only way to drown out the disease is a gluten-free diet. With strict adherence, after a few months, the health of patients is fully restored. Their further way of life will not be different from the lives of other people.
The doctor can also prescribe hormonal drugs, replenishment of substances that are missing in the body (for example, iron and folic acid in case of anemia).
Gluten free diet
As part of the diet, all foods containing gluten are excluded. It includes not only cereals and derivatives, but also ice cream, canned food, cocoa, coffee, sausages, semi-finished products and other products, the production of which involves protein. There are specialized stores that produce customized products without protein. Such products are marked with a special sign - crossed out spike. Gluten-free flour is made from rice, corn, potatoes and other safe crops.
Dietitians are extremely ambiguous about the gluten-free diet used for weight loss. By itself, such a diet is safe, but the lack of cereals on the menu leads to a shortage of valuable substances in the body. Their replenishment requires constant intake of vitamin preparations. Experts recommend partially eliminating gluten and observing subsequent changes. In the absence of obvious results, it is better to return cereals to the diet and choose a more effective type of diet.
Summarizing, we can say that the myths about the terrible protein have not so many reasons. If you fear for your health, take a blood test and make sure that you are not intolerant of gluten. Then you will have no reason to deprive yourself of gastronomic joys.
You will not lose weight
“Gluten free” doesn't equal “no calories.” In fact, sometimes gluten-free foods contain even more calories than their gluten-free counterparts, due to the fact that they contain more sugar, fat and sodium, which is designed to compensate for changes in taste and texture. In addition, gluten-free food can provoke overeating, so that you not only will not lose weight, but, on the contrary, gain a few extra pounds.
Digestion May Be Disrupted
According to statistics provided by the Journal of Nutrition, about 90% of residents of large cities do not consume enough fiber (the recommended daily intake for women is 38 grams, for men 25 grams). This is because cereal products on average account for about 40% of our diet, while they contain healthy doses of healthy fiber. The choice of gluten-free food will significantly reduce the amount of fiber consumed, which will certainly affect digestion, and not for the better.
“Fiber feeds our microbiome,” says Alessio Fasano. - In other words, intestinal bacteria “eat” it, resulting in the production of short chain fatty acids, also known as butyrate. Butyrate helps the intestines to function, so when it’s not enough, you are at risk of inflammation in the stomach, irritable bowel syndrome, cramping and other diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. ” So if you are determined to get rid of gluten, pay attention to beans, legumes, vegetables and rice - excellent gluten-free sources of fiber.
You will want to sleep more
When you exclude wheat, barley, rye, and other grains from the diet, you reduce the intake of large amounts of important nutrients that are found in these foods. Among them are iron, folic acid, zinc and vitamin D. Experts note that when a person with celiac disease goes on a gluten-free diet, he does this under the supervision of a doctor who monitors all important nutrients to enter the body. If you do it yourself, errors are difficult to avoid. As a result, a deficiency of vitamins and minerals can lead to fatigue, atypical weakness, and mood changes.
Cancer Risk May Increase
One reason many people give up gluten is the popular paleo-diet (Stone Age diet), which recommends eating more meat. But, according to some reports, the glut of the body with protein leads to an increased risk of cancer. Cell Metabolism magazine cites data from a study of people aged 50 to 60 who followed a high protein diet. The results showed that those who consume a lot of protein, the risk of cancer is four times higher than those who follow a diet low in protein. Researchers believe this is because protein in the diet increases the level of growth hormone IGF-1, which can stimulate the growth of cancer cells.
You can feel happier
While celiac disease affects no more than 0.5-1% of the world's population, people who are sensitive to gluten are much more. For the second group, gluten does not pose any danger in terms of health indicators, however, when such people eat gluten-free foods, they may experience loss of concentration, apathy, and depressive moods. A study published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics says that people with non-celiac gluten intolerance (NCGS) worsen symptoms of depression when they follow a gluten-free diet.
When to Gluten Free
There are three states of the body in which the system fails, - intolerance, allergies and hypersensitivity . Their symptoms can be very different: any problems with the gastrointestinal tract (bloating, heaviness, diarrhea, etc.), headaches, itching, general weakness. Despite similar manifestations, the nature of these reactions is fundamentally different, which means that they are diagnosed differently.
Wheat contains 27 potential allergens, and gluten is just one of them. That is why in medical practice they talk about allergies to wheat in general.
In case of allergies, getting into the body, gluten causes a cascade of reactions that are different in nature from those that occur with celiac disease. But the result is the same - problems with the intestines, plus possible itching, hives, and even anaphylaxis. An allergy is also diagnosed using a blood test, but in this case, a specific immunoglobulin E.
Hypersensitivity to Gluten
When there is no intolerance or allergy, but digestive problems disappear after exclusion of gluten from the diet, they speak of increased sensitivity. Diagnosing it with the help of analyzes is almost impossible - the phenomenon is only being studied.
“There is a special condition of the intestine, which is called“ increased permeability ”: in this case, the intestinal walls pass more substances into the blood, including gluten, than they should normally. It is difficult for the body to cope with so many peptide provocateurs, and unpleasant symptoms occur. This is a temporary condition that can provoke almost anything - overeating, metabolic disorders, poisoning, taking antibiotics and even commonplace stress, ”explains the nutritionist.
In fact, with increased intestinal permeability, various substances, such as cow's milk proteins, may be the cause of poor health. But even if you are sure that the problem is in gluten, it is completely optional to exclude it forever - sometimes a couple of days of fasting are enough for the intestines to return to normal.
Are gluten-free diets helpful?
At the moment, a complete rejection of gluten, if there is no medical indication (celiac disease or allergies), is considered inappropriate. Of course, stories about the positive effect of gluten-free diets are not fiction, but in most cases it is not directly related to gluten. Refusing products with gluten, a person begins to pay more attention to quality and diet, and this always leads to better health. And, finally, no one has canceled the placebo effect - its effect on the body is precisely proven.