Gluten Free. A catch phrase in dieting the past couple of years. Do a quick search online and you’ll get a flood of information about the benefits of going gluten free.

Before you jump onto the bandwagon, do you know what gluten is and what it does?

Here’s a quick summary.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in many grains like wheat, barley and rye.

So, it’s in your bread, pasta and beers!

What does Gluten do to food?

If you bake, then you know that gluten helps strengthen dough and that traps air that is released.

What does Gluten do to the body?

Gluten provides no essential nutrients. That’s right, Gluten by itself does nothing for you nutritionally. But the other nutrients that are contained in where you find Gluten is. Produce such as wheat are good sources of essential nutrients like dietary fibre, vitamins, protein.

Who really needs to avoid Gluten?

  • Celiac Disease

People with celiac disease have an immune reaction when they eat gluten.

Symptoms: depression, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pains & chronic fatigue, inflammation and damage in the intestinal tracts and other parts if the body.

Similar to Celiac Disease, people with this sensitivity get the symptoms but not the intestinal damage. Generally, they have a wheat sensitivity.

Symptoms: depression, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pains & chronic fatigue, but test negative for Celiac Disease.

How many people have Celiac Disease or Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity?

Studies show that in Europe, Australia and USA, approximately 1% of the population have Celiac Disease. Celiac disease is common in India (esp. North India), Pakistan, the Middle East and North Africa, although lack of awareness and facilities for diagnosis means even fewer people are diagnosed.

It is thought that celiac disease incidence is likely to increase as wheat consumption in countries such as Singapore, China and Japan has increased dramatically over the past few decades. Diets have tended to become more ‘westernised’ and less reliant on rice as the staple.

Down Sides

  • It is costly to go gluten free. There is no denying it.

A packet of gluten free pasta is easily twice as expensive as regular pasta.

  • There is no guarantee that you will lose weight

It’s all still dependent on how and what you eat. Gluten free substitutes are not necessarily healthier for you. Most of the time it’s what it says on the packaging, no gluten. But as with all processed foods, once you take out something you have to replace it with something else.

  • Nutritional deficiencies can occur

Because of the above point, if you are not careful, you may end up lacking in certain nutrients in your diet.

  • Food choices become limited

Going out to eat becomes a chore when you have to research to make sure they have gluten free dishes. It may be another specialized selling point at the supermarket, but your choices start to become restricted when you start talking about eating out or ordering online.

Up Sides

From our readings, the biggest benefits are felt by people with Celiac Disease.

  • Improved energy levels
  • Eliminate bloating
  • Reduced joint pains
  • Reduced depression
  • Better bone health
  • Improved skin health
  • Reduced hair loss

Apart from that other up sides include

  • Better lactose tolerance

Our summary, unless you suffer from Celiac Disease or have a wheat allergy, there really is no compelling reason to willingly seek a gluten free diet. If you are looking to lose or control weight, there are more sensible programs out there.

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