3 Types of People Who should Go Gluten-Free!

Posted On: Feb 17, 2019

Categories: Gluten-free , Food

The term, "Gluten-Free", has been bandied about a lot these days but what does it really entail?  Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Hence, it is in all foods made with these grains, for example, cakes, pastries, bread, pastanoodles etc. Gluten plays a major role in cooking and baking.

It increases foods’ elasticity, keeps foods’ moisture, retains different bakeries’ shapes, and enables foods to be hardened under high heat. Nevertheless, recent studies show that many symptoms including gut problems, bloating, headache, joint pain, fatigue, and brain fog, might be stemmed from gluten consumption.

Why go gluten-free?

1. Celiac disease (CD)

Treating Celiac disease is often the most common reason why people kick start a gluten-free diet. Often referred to as an allergy or intolerance, celiac disease is, in fact, an auto-immune disease that occurs when the body's immune system reacts abnormally to gluten and produces antibodies that attack its own tissues.

Celiac disease can occur at any age: symptoms may first appear when a baby is weaned onto wheat-containing cereals, but they can also occur later in life. The disease runs in families and studies show that if a family member has the condition, there is a 1 in 10 chance that a close relative will develop the disease. There is no cure or medication for CD and the only treatment is a strict gluten-free diet. Even a tiny amount of gluten, from particles of flour contaminating a work surface, for instance, is enough to cause serious pain or other issues to a CD carrier.

Symptoms of celiac disease

1. diarrhea 8. tiredness
2. excessive wind and/or constipation 9. headache
3. nausea 10. mouth ulcers
4. vomiting 11. alopecia (hair loss)
5. stomach pain 12. skin rash
6. cramping 13. unexplained weight loss
7. bloating

*Left untreated, celiac disease can increase the risk of other conditions, including infertility, repeated miscarriage, osteoporosis, and depression.

2. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS)

Aside from celiac disease. Recent studies have identified a similar, yet severe condition, known as “non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). NCGS produces similar symptoms to celiac disease - especially non-intestinal ones such as joint pain and headaches - usually hours after eating gluten-containing foods. They experience painful gut symptoms and suffer from fatigue, brain fog, joint pain and/or skin rash.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity does not seem to involve the immune system or cause damage to the lining of the gut. There are no tests or biomarkers to identify NCGS at the moment. Nevertheless, if you think you have been suffering from the mentioned symptoms, first consult your doctor to rule out celiac disease, then seek advice for a suitable gluten-free diet. Research suggests that there may be approximately six times as many people suffering from non-celiac gluten sensitivity than from celiac disease. The worrying part is that the majority of this crowd is unaware of their condition.  

3. Wheat allergy

Wheat allergy is an immune reaction to any of the hundreds of proteins in wheat. This reaction can occur very quickly fast (varies from minutes to hours). It may involve a big range of symptoms from nausea, abdominal pain, itching, swelling of the lips and tongue, to breathing troubles, or anaphylaxis (a life-threatening reaction).

A person with a wheat allergy must avoid eating any form of wheat, nevertheless, he/she should not have trouble tolerating gluten from non-wheat sources. (It is possible for a person to be both allergic to wheat and have CD or GS.) In the United States, wheat is one of the eight most common foods to which people are allergic to identified, so if wheat allergy is an identified, gluten sensitivity and CD test are still highly recommended just in case.

Quick Q&A

1. Can I be a CD carrier if I do not have any obvious symptoms yet?

Although this is highly uncommon, it is possible. Some experts now talk about a “celiac spectrum”: Whilst at one end of the spectrum, carriers demonstrate all the classic symptoms of the condition; at the other end, whilst no obvious physical symptoms are shown, the lining of the small intestine can still be damaged. The best advice is to consult a doctor. 

2. Should I follow a gluten-free diet to lose weight?

Avoiding carbohydrates, in general, has been a common weight loss strategy. However, as for Gluten, there has not been any proof that a gluten-free diet contributes to weight loss yet. Gluten-free products still carry calories and possibly other weight-gaining elements. Hence, if one is not sensitive to Gluten in any way, a gluten-free diet may not necessarily be beneficial (in perspective of a weight-losing goal).

Source:

Gluten Intolerance Group. (2015). Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity Or Wheat Allergy: What is the Difference? Retrieved from https://www.gluten.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/EDU_AllrgyIntlrnc_6.9.2015.pdf

TED. (2015). What’s the big deal with gluten? - William D. Chey [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEM2iDT-VAk

Whinney, H., Lawrie, J., & Hunter, F. (2014). The Gluten-Free Cookbook. Dorling Kindersley.

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