What is gluten?
Gluten is a family of proteins found in grains like wheat, rye, spelt and barley. Of the gluten-containing grains, wheat is by far the most commonly consumed. The two main proteins in gluten are glutenin and gliadin. When flour is mixed with water, the gluten proteins form a sticky glue-like consistency. This makes the dough elastic and gives the bread the ability to rise when baked. It also provides bread’s chewy, satisfying texture.
Why is gluten bad for some people?
Gluten itself is not “bad for you,” as it’s just protein, and most people tolerate gluten perfectly well. However, foods containing gluten may cause problems for people with certain health conditions, including coeliac disease, wheat allergies and gluten sensitivity.
Coeliac disease is the most severe form of gluten intolerance. It is an autoimmune disorder, and involves the body treating gluten as a foreign invader. The immune system attacks the gluten, damaging the lining of the gut in the process and potentially causing nutritional deficiencies, anemia, severe digestive issues and an increased risk of many diseases.
The most common symptoms of coeliac disease are digestive discomfort, tissue damage in the small intestines, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headache, skin rashes, depression, weight loss and foul-smelling faeces. Some people with coeliac disease do not show digestive symptoms, but may have other symptoms like tiredness or anemia.
Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity
There are many people who do not test positive for coeliac disease, but still react negatively to gluten. This condition is called non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity include diarrhea, stomach pain, tiredness, bloating and depression.
There is no clear definition of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, but the diagnosis is made when a patient reacts negatively to gluten, but coeliac disease and allergies have been ruled out.
Embarking on a gluten-free diet can be intimidating, but the good news is that there are plenty of foods that are naturally free from gluten, including dairy, meat, fish, eggs, fruit, veggies and much more. Follow the link below for a handy infographic.
13 Naturally Gluten-Free Foods
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