Part 1: All About Gluten

Hi Friends, happy Friday and a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR 2021!!!

Wish you lots of happiness, health and peace this year…and always! We are thankfully done with 2020 and now with 2021, let’s hope for new beginnings, new horizons and new opportunities!! A better version of humanity and us!!

Though, the year 2020 hasn’t been a complete waste for most of us. We have managed to survive, even evolve despite all the losses, roadblocks and hardships. Many of us have found time to finally stop…and figure out what makes us happy. We know our priorities better today, don’t we?

Now, I know you are also busy spending time with family (and on phone, calling and texting) celebrating New Year so, will keep the post today small. It is the part 1 of gluten series. Next week would be part 2.

Gluten is a confusing, controversial topic today. Some experts believe in completely eliminating gluten from our diets no matter what and many others believe that unless one has Celiac Disease or a gluten-sensitivity, gluten is completely safe and even beneficial for us.

I have never come across a person with a severe gluten-intolerance though Kia, our pet was diagnosed with gluten-intolerance. It caused her to itch her ear badly and since we stopped giving her our rotis (it has some wheat, yes), she has been fine on that front!

Maybe, there are a few of us who don’t even know they are gluten-sensitive while there definitely are many who blame gluten for their discomfort while the real reason lies somewhere else.

First, What Is Gluten?

Gluten word is derived from the word “glue” – gluten being responsible for ‘glue-like’ sticky property of wet dough. This sticky consistency makes for yummy rotis, fluffy bread etc and provides a chewy, satiating flavour to the food.

Gluten refers to a family of protein found in grains e.g. wheat, rye, spelt, barley etc. Two main proteins in this family are glutenin and gliadin. Gliadin is the one considered responsible for gluten-related concerns.

What Is Gluten Intolerance?

Most of us have no adverse effects of gluten and we are free to enjoy it. If you are not gluten intolerant, there is no need for you to avoid it. However, today “gluten-free” is almost considered a healthier way of life and there is no major harm in it either – if you can stick to the naturally gluten-free whole grains and whole foods. Plenty of options too! However, not harmful = healthier….not necessarily!

In general, most packaged/processed products are wheat-based and so are most bakery goods these days. If you decide to avoid gluten and avoid all these as a result, good for you, isn’t it? Gluten or no gluten!

A few among us, with certain health concerns like Celiac disease, gluten allergy/sensitivity etc are advised to completely lay off wheat and other gluten-containing foods.

Celiac disease, also called the Coeliac disease is the severe form of gluten intolerance and could be genetic in nature. It’s not a food allergy but an autoimmune disorder where our own immune system attacks the gut-lining causing damage, inflammation, nutritional deficiencies, anaemia and serious digestive issues.

This disease can easily be confirmed by a blood test or a gut-tissue biopsy.

Some people, though confirmed negative for celiac still show gluten intolerance and this condition is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. The symptoms of gluten intolerance (upon gluten-consumption) include:

  • Bloating, gas
  • Exhaustion, even depression
  • Diarrhoea, constipation or both
  • Stomach pain/cramps

Experts believe that a lot of people think they are gluten intolerant while the real reason for their discomfort lies somewhere else.

If you feel that gluten or wheat causes you discomfort, you should rule out celiac disease (through a medical expert) and if found negative, eliminate all wheat/gluten products from diet for 2-3 week and see if the symptoms improve. Slowly re-introduce wheat/gluten to the diet and see if the symptoms return. This way, one could find out if they really are gluten sensitive or if it’s something else!

Foods High In Gluten

One needs to read labels carefully if gluten is to be completely avoided as most processed foods contain wheat. Do check for the clear gluten-free mention, just ‘wheat-free’ might not help.

  • Wheat, spelt, rye, barley
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Beer
  • Cereals
  • Cakes, cookies, most bakery products etc

Now that we know what exactly is gluten, what is gluten-intolerance and which foods are high in gluten…let’s come back to main questions:

  • How do I know if I should avoid gluten?
  • Is gluten always bad?
  • Does ‘gluten-free’ mean healthier automatically?
  • What is the downside of avoiding gluten?

For these answers and much more, don’t miss the sequel next Friday. Also, though many people are gluten-intolerant, I have never come across one somehow. If you are, please do let me know. I would like to know a little about your experiences. Thank you.

Till next Friday!

Love, Health & Peace

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