“Gluten-free” has become the diet phrase of the decade for many reasons. Some think it will help them lose weight, while others genuinely believe their bodies can’t take gluten just as some can’t handle lactose.
However, according to several recent studies, most people are not gluten sensitive at all, despite what nutritionists may be telling them. That said, they may be marketing sensitive, which is totally fair considering the whole nutritional world seems to have latched on to this notion that gluten in all forms is bad for you.
Now, there are some people who do have an actual gluten intolerance, but that group is only about 1 percent of the American population. These are the unfortunate folks who suffer from celiac disease, which means if they eat even the smallest amount of gluten, they could permanently damage their small intestine. Some also have gluten ataxia, which, when triggered, can result in serious adverse effects to the brain and motor abilities.
There is also a small percentage of people who have minor digestive troubles when they ingest gluten. However, that number is still a lot smaller than the nutrition-conscious world would like you to believe. According to a study that was recently published in the Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, a good portion of the people who claim to be gluten sensitive are kidding themselves.
The researchers took 35 people who had been diagnosed as gluten sensitive and split them into two groups — one group was given gluten-free flour, while the other group was given regular flour. For 10 days, both groups were asked to use the flour in food in various ways. After that time, they were allowed to return to their regular, gluten-free diets. Then, after a period of adjustment, the two groups were given the opposite flour packets — if they had gluten-free the first time around, now they had gluten-filled flour.
The results were pretty telling — only 12 of the 35 “gluten-sensitive” participants were correctly diagnosed as truly having a sensitivity. Most even thought they were using gluten-free flour when they were actually using regular flour, and six didn’t have any adverse side effects whatsoever. So it just goes to show, advertising, especially when it comes to our physical health, is extremely powerful, and our brains can easily trick our bodies into feeling something that’s not actually legitimate.
That said, the study also showed results exhibiting how a gluten-free diet could help people who have digestive troubles and don’t know why. It is possible that these subjects could have an early stage gluten sensitivity, so cutting down on it might make you feel better overall.
The researchers of this more recent, smaller study admit they’d have to do more extensive testing to fully prove or disprove this theory. However, for now, it’s best to do what makes your tummy feel best. And even if your gluten sensitivity is all in your head, if your digestion noticeably improves after investing in pricier gluten-free food options, then all the power to you.