More and more people are switching to a gluten-free diet. Without a doctor’s prescription, without a confirmed gluten allergy, prophylactically, “for health”. Is gluten actually as dangerous to health as it may seem? Is it worth giving up if we have no gluten allergy? These questions are answered in this article.
In 2011, Peter Gibson of Monash University in Australia published the results of double-blind, randomized studies suggesting that gluten may also cause adverse symptoms in people who are not diagnosed with celiac disease, and that gluten sensitivity is quite common. Once this information reached the public, the world literally went crazy about gluten-free diets and gluten-free products. Two years later, after criticism from the scientific community, Gibson repeated his research because he had doubts about the methods used in an earlier experiment. Ultimately, he canceled his previous results, but this information was not so widely echoed.
Gluten allergy – what exactly is gluten?
Gluten is a mixture of proteins of plant origin – wheat glutelin and gliadin, rye secalin, barley hordein or oat avenin. Contrary to popular belief, it is not found in “pure form” in flour, but is an artificial product that is formed when flour is mixed with water.
An example of such concentrated gluten can be seitan, also known as Buddha meat – it is a protein substitute for meat in a vegan diet, obtained by washing out starch from raw dough. Thanks to its properties, gluten has been widely used in bakery and confectionery – it creates cross-linked structures that affect, for example, flexibility and compactness, which significantly increases the quality and attractiveness of baked goods.
Gluten allergy – some information
How exactly is it possible that gluten, which has always been present in the human diet, has suddenly become the number one “public enemy”? Technological progress, which has also crept into agriculture, is to blame for everything. Genetic modifications of cereals, especially wheat, led to an increase in the content of this protein in cereals. In addition, gluten, thanks to its properties, is not only an ingredient of cereals and their products, but producers also add it to a whole bunch of products that we would not even think might contain gluten. These include various types of dairy products, baking powders, sweets, highly processed foods, ready-made sauces, crisps, beer, and even sausages or cold cuts. As a result, gluten consumption is much higher today than it was in our grandparents’ times.
Gluten allergy – wheat in the spotlight
To start talking about gluten allergy at all, it’s helpful to clarify basic concepts that are usually confused or misused, adding to the confusion. Is there a gluten allergy at all? What is wheat allergy? Is gluten allergy the same as gluten intolerance? How is celiac disease different from gluten sensitivity? It is very important to be able to distinguish between these disease states – contrary to appearances, they have different causes, and thus, require specific, different methods of treatment. Food hypersensitivity may or may not be mediated by immune mechanisms. If the immune system is involved in the reaction, it is a food allergy, if not, it is an intolerance. In conclusion, when we talk about “gluten allergy” we really mean either wheat allergy, or celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten intolerance (NNG).
A disease closely related to gluten is celiac disease – it is an autoimmune disease that lasts a lifetime. It is characterized by gluten intolerance, which has a toxic effect on the intestinal villi – it leads to their disappearance, which in turn causes a malabsorption of nutrients from food. The only way to treat celiac disease is to follow a strict gluten-free diet.
Recently, a new, gluten-related disease entity has been classified – non-celiac gluten intolerance (NNG). It affects a small part of society (approx. 6%). It occurs when celiac disease is ruled out and IgG-dependent allergy tests are positive. This diagnostic method is extremely effective as it tells you straight away whether there is a reaction to gluten (NNG, celiac disease) or, for example, to wheat (wheat allergy). It is worth knowing that during this type of diagnostics, you should never exclude gluten from your daily meals, because it may impair the test results.
Gluten allergy – how to recognize it?
How do you know if you have gluten tolerance issues? Contrary to appearances, this is not an easy task. Both wheat allergy, non-celiac gluten intolerance and celiac disease itself cause many symptoms related not only to the digestive system. In addition to abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or a decrease in appetite, you can also experience headaches, fatigue, drowsiness, a feeling of breakdown, irritation. If you are eating properly and still have high deficiencies, it is also worth getting tested for celiac disease or NNG – gluten intolerance can impair the absorption of nutrients from food.
Gluten allergy – is it worth giving up gluten as a precaution?
What if you give up gluten when you have no problems with its tolerance? So many people have gone gluten-free and feel great on it, why not give it a try? It is worth remembering that people often succumb to fads that pass, and once lost health is sometimes difficult to regain. Gluten is found in cereals, which should be the main food source – carbohydrates in the diet make up more than half of a balanced diet. They are a source of many minerals and vitamins, but most of all fiber, which not only has a beneficial effect on the frequency and quality of visits to the toilet, but also prevents many diseases of the digestive system, reduces weight and is a breeding ground for healthy bacteria. Some studies, such as those published in February 2015 in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics by a team of scientists at Frederick II University of Naples, confirm that giving up gluten can sometimes lead to the onset of metabolic syndrome and is also associated with an increased risk of getting diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. In addition, gluten-free products are usually highly processed, with an almost endless shelf life.
If you do not have gluten tolerance problems or have any other allergies, do not give up eating gluten-containing products as there is no need to. A healthy diet is a varied diet, in which we can find products from various groups, including those containing gluten, lactose, soy, crustaceans, eggs, sugar and other allergens.
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