Gluten was one of the top trending food-related words of 2016, and is still standing strong so far this year. But what exactly is gluten? For a word with so much fanfare attached it to, most people are surprised when they discover what gluten actually is.
Gluten is a protein. It is found in foods that are processed from wheat and grain. Gluten is what makes dough “elastic”, helps in the rising process, and provides bread’s chewy texture. Sounds pretty good, right? Unfortunately, gluten is the source of digestive problems for a growing group of individuals who have celiac disease.
Celiac disease was pretty far behind gluten in the trending terms of 2013, but its presence as a gastrointestinal illness is becoming better known. “True celiacs”, or those who suffer from the disease and aren’t simply making a change in diet, are extremely sensitive to gluten. Even a tiny amount of this protein can make them very ill by damaging the lining of their small intestine. This damage can manifest through chronic diarrhea, cramping, and so on. Certain tests are needed in order to distinguish a true celiac.
Still, even those who are not true celiac should be in the know when it comes to gluten. Here are three things to remember next time you go to the grocery store:
Gluten sensitivity is real
Even for non-celiacs, gluten sensitivity can cause unpleasant side effects: stomach pain, insomnia, heartburn, rashes, and headaches are just a few of the symptoms. Cutting back on your gluten intake is a nice way to experiment with your diet – if you notice an improvement in how you physically feel once you cut back then you may be gluten-sensitive. Contact SFGI to talk to one of our physicians about this development.
Cutting back on gluten can affect your weight
Going gluten-free for dietary reasons is a popular choice these days, but keep in mind that those new gluten-free products your purchasing can be just as high in sugar, sodium, starches, and fats. For those that are struggling with weight gain, the best option is to eat foods that are naturally gluten-free. Foods like: vegetables, fruits, fish, poultry, brown rice, nuts, and lean meats are all great options to explore.
Say “Yes” to awareness and “No” to worry
The side effects of gluten can be very unpleasant, but that doesn’t mean that those who are gluten sensitive need to be overly concerned. Steady changes in diet can improve any of the gluten-based side effects you are feeling, if they are in fact caused by gluten intake. It’s important to be aware of what you’re ingesting on a daily basis and how these nutrition choices will affect your health in both the short and long term.