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Should I be gluten free?

free close up inside pieces of bread image, public domain food c

It is very common these days to avoid it but YANNA DARILIS asks how to tell whether or not you should

Food marketing trends have many consumers following fads without actually understanding them. What is important is to research facts before jumping on the bandwagon so as to really embrace and understand the benefits. So what is all the hype about gluten, and should you be avoiding it?

First we must understand what gluten is, and why it causes problems for many people. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye, and is what gives their elastic structure. Because of this elastic structure, it is usually used as a thickening agent in many recipes. So any foods with these grains will have gluten. Oats do not contain gluten, however they have been shown to also cause bloating and intestinal discomfort to some.

What does this mean? In most baked goods you will find gluten, and it may be undetectable. Most breads, bagels, crackers, cakes, beer, pasta, pizza, and so on, have gluten, unless they are made with gluten free flour (such as rice, potato, coconut, almond, quinoa flour, and more).

Many people have been found to have a hypersensitivity and intolerance to gluten, causing autoimmune disorders, celiac disease, gastrointestinal disorders, disorders of the small intestine and allergies.

So how can we detect if we have sensitivities to gluten? The most common symptoms of celiac disease may include chronic fatigue after eating food containing gluten, abdominal bloating and gas, stomach pain, diarrhoea, anaemia, skin rashes, brain fog, weight loss, ulcers, aching muscles and bones. However, you don’t need to have full blown celiac disease to be sensitive or intolerant to gluten.

health2If you feel anything close to these symptoms, it would be good to take a test to see if you might have Celiac disease, and even if not detected, because it may be at a lesser degree, it would be good to eliminate gluten from your diet and see how you feel, and if your symptoms begin fading away.

Statistics show that one per cent of the American population has been diagnosed with Celiac disease. This means the immune system triggers an attack on the intestines when gluten is eaten, meaning the body is unable to absorb nutrients, causing malnutrition and other chronic conditions.

It has not been determined however if people who do not have Celiac disease but are sensitive to gluten and experience similar symptoms when eating it suffer damage to the intestines.

If you decide to give it up, the hardest thing to cut out is bread and delicious baked goods, however there are many healthy alternatives that will help free you from any of these symptoms that ruin your quality of life.

Many health food stores and increasingly supermarkets offer a great assortment of alternative flours and products that are gluten free. These are usually made of almond flour, coconut flour, potato flour, corn, and rice flour.

Some studies have also found, that gluten-free diets have helped children on the autism spectrum disorder, although the evidence is controversial, many parents have seen a difference in their children’s behaviour when they modified their diet.

Be sure to read the labels and look out for hidden ingredients, and check the additives in canned foods.

People following gluten-free diets should be mindful about eating more fruits and vegetables, high quality meats and fish and gluten-free grains enriched with vitamins and minerals, to avoid deficiencies.

What is important is to learn to listen to your body and how you feel after eating. If you have discomfort after eating, chances are some foods don’t agree with you. Trial and error in eliminating certain foods from your diet will result in more understanding of which foods agree with you best.


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