WTF is Gluten?

One of the biggest misconceptions in health is gluten. I don’t know where this anti-gluten craze came from. Was it when Miley Cyrus started to talk about her gluten-free diet that the trend began? Maybe, it was when Cheerios unveiled they were going gluten-free as well? Either way, it has taken on a life of its own. Essentially gluten is a wheat protein. It makes me laugh when I see gluten-free on products that don’t even contain wheat. They are obviously using the trend to their marketing advantage.

 

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Hot dogs don’t contain gluten, buns do because they’re made from wheat. (Photo-Unsplash)

Who Needs to Avoid It?

The majority of us don’t need a gluten-free diet. People with Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity are recommended by doctors to avoid gluten.  Their bodies physically cannot break down this wheat protein. Our small intestine has this special type of lining called microvilli. For someone with celiac disease, their microvilli will get jacked up if they eat gluten. Gluten Sensitivity has seen a surge in incidents lately. It’s different than Celiac Disease because they experience the same symptoms but there is no damage to their intestine.  One reason why gluten sensitivity is increasing could be we can test for it now. We have the knowledge and technology to diagnose people who could have been left undiagnosed. There is no science evidence to suggest gluten related diseases are environmental.

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Jacked up villi on the left  (Photo: Nancy Olsen-Flickr) 

 

Gluten-free for All

So, if we don’t have Celiac or a sensitivity to gluten then why is everything gluten free? This goes back to my organic post, food marketing. We call this a health halo. Somehow health halos are created and there is an illusion that this food or product is healthier than all the rest.  There are lots of celebrities and other “health” gurus who jumped on this bandwagon and think gluten-free is healthier. It’s healthier if you have a problem digesting gluten, other than that it’s fine to eat it.

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Gluten-free foods have improved their quality and now there are more options. (Photo-Lisa Castrichini)

I went a summer without eating gluten because I was experiencing stomach cramps. Turns out it was more of a Vitamin D problem then wheat. There is an excellent scientific paper about gluten from Cambridge Core with some great insights into this matter. The author suggests this has raised awareness for this disease that only 1% of the population has. I would agree too. I feel people with Celiac Disease are happy about this trend because gluten-free foods have improved their quality and there are more options for them.

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