Gluten explained: How it can affect you

In less than a decade, the word “gluten” has become very popular in the food world. With gluten being blamed for everything from bloating to allergic reactions, and gluten-free products making their way onto our supermarket shelves, it is important to know what gluten is and how it can affect your diet. Here is a straightforward and simple explanation of gluten and what it could mean to you

Woman with stomach pain

What is it?

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. You probably eat more of it than you realize — it makes pizza dough stretchy and gives bread it’s spongy texture, but it can also be dangerous to the body.

Why is it dangerous?

Gluten is especially dangerous for those with coeliac disease, a digestive disorder, as their body will mount an immune reaction to the presence of gluten in the body. This can end up damaging the small intestines, leading to osteoporosis, infertility and intestinal cancer. Coeliac disease is an unpleasant disorder, it can cause chronic diarrhoea, anaemia, weight loss, nutritional deficiencies and constipation.

Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is another problem that was recently discovered. New research has found that gluten can affect some people in the same way as coeliac sufferers, causing similar reactions, though does not damage the intestines in the same way.

Are you a sufferer?

If you suspect you are a sufferer of gluten related problems, go to your doctor for a blood test, but keep eating gluten regularly to monitor your reactions to it. If you are diagnosed with gluten intolerance, you will have to switch to gluten free products. Luckily, the market is full of alternatives or replacements and many restaurants now will accommodate sufferers and have gluten-free options similar to those for vegetarians.

Don’t miss out

Gluten is included in many products so do your research if you do decide to cut it out of your diet. Also make sure you substitute the goodness you previously got from gluten with something else. Gluten rich foods are packed with fibre, B vitamins and iron so make sure you still get the right nutrients in your diet.

It doesn’t guarantee a healthier diet

Cutting out gluten and only eating gluten-free foods can sometimes cause other health problems. Gluten-free products often substitute the missing ingredient with fats or sugars to make it taste better. Stick to fresh vegetables, fruits, protein, dairy and gluten-free grains for a healthy diet.

More diet tips

The baby food diet: Fad or fact?
Diet friendly drinks for summer’s hottest body
Why low-fat foods can be bad for you

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