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What is Gluten? Wheat is a grain that contains carbohydrate, protein and lots of nutrients. The protein found in wheat is called gluten. Gluten is also found in rye and barley. Gluten is not only used in bread, cakes, pizzas, pasta but also ketchup, sauces, spreads and even in some cosmetic products like lipsticks.
It is used widely in various products because it provides the structure and is an excellent stabilizing agent. Structurally, gluten contains a protein network of Glutenin and Gliadin. It also contains starch (carbohydrate) molecules and gas bubbles.
How the body reacts to gluten?
Generally, having a carbohydrate-rich diet spike up blood sugar, leading to various weight issues and insulin resistance. Whenever gluten enters the body, the body’s immune system mistaken them for foreign bacteria, and start reacting against the intruders (gluten particles). This immune response provokes inflammations. Typically, inflammation is temporary and is supposed to stop when the bacteria or foreign body is expelled. But when the process of inflammation becomes chronic, every organ system is affected, and various diseases may occur over time.
There is another effect of gluten concerning the body. Zonulin is a protein which is naturally present in our body which modulates the Intestinal barrier functions. It maintains the permeability of the tight junctions in the intestinal lining, preventing any particles from the gut to leak into the bloodstream. Gluten is found to interfere in the function of Zonulin. This phenomenon was first discovered by a great researcher Alessio Fasano. He has also found that the modern variety of wheat, which are hybrid types, affecting human health is on the rise. Therefore, the human body is not equipped to eat a massive amount of gluten every day. So, having more and more gluten is taking a toll on the health of many people.
Celiac disease: In Celiac disease, the body’s immune system reacts strongly to the gluten particles causing a damaging effect on the small intestine. The leaky gut syndrome is quite common in these cases. The symptoms are mainly chronic diarrhoea, abdominal distention and pain, brain fog, joint pain and weight loss. The incidence of Celiac disease is increasing day by day. Many of the cases remain undiagnosed, which may end up in other types of Autoimmune diseases, inflammatory diseases or even cancers. The condition can be screened by a blood test and small intestinal biopsy. Such people are strictly recommended for a gluten-free diet.
Gluten sensitivity: Another condition emerging is Gluten sensitivity. Such condition is also called Non-Celiac disease gluten sensitivity because these people are negative of Celiac disease. When gluten is removed from their diet, most of the symptoms get resolved. Researches are still going on to confirm the actual cause of immune response in these people. If not gluten, maybe other triggers like fructans (starch) molecules called FODMAPs can be the reason. These cases are challenging to diagnose.
Gluten-free diet: When we walk down the aisle of a Supermarket, we get to see plenty of products with gluten-free tags. Not all gluten-free products are healthy. Since gluten is removed, they use other binding agents or synthetic compounds to compensate for the structure and palatability of the product. Moreover, a gluten-free diet is found to have low micronutrients like folate and iron. So, a gluten-free diet should be adopted only if clinically advised.
Gluten-free for whom?
Celiac disease; People diagnosed with Celiac disease should ultimately adopt a gluten-free diet.
Gluten sensitivity: May benefit from a gluten-free diet but should make arrangements to compensate for nutritional deficiencies.
People like rest of us who have no regular symptoms or never had prominent abdominal issues can have gluten in a fair amount in the form of whole-grain food as long as we have a balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits.
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