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Why is everybody talking about gluten?

Nowadays, gluten is at the top of our conversations when we talk about nutrition.

Do you know what gluten is?

It’s appointed as one of the causes of obesity, malabsorption of nutrients, bloating, feeling sick and many other reactions.

Every day, new articles appear, to attack and to defend gluten, there isn’t a real consensus among the various health professionals.

But, after all, is it a fashion or a health issue?

Discover what really matters.

What is gluten?

question

Gluten is a mixture of proteins (gliadin and glutenin) naturally present in the endosperm (which is produced within the seeds) of various cereals, such as wheat, rye, barley and oats.

When water is added to these cereals, gluten is formed, which will make this “mass” not only more elastic, but also more resistant.

Therefore, this protein is responsible for elasticity and plays a key role in the fermentation of bread, cakes, biscuits and pastries.

There are several references in foods about their presence, as it’s considered an allergenic food. It means, an enhancer of allergies, intolerances and also of the known celiac disease.

What’s being allergic or intolerant to gluten?

Gluten allergy occurs when an autoimmune inflammatory reaction is triggered, that is, a reaction of the immune system against itself, which happens when an individual ingests foods that contain gluten in their composition.

This reaction has consequences for the organism, such as the alteration of the intestinal mucosa, and interference in the absorption of nutrients.

There are, however, several sensitivities to gluten: celiac disease – which is an autoimmune disease (allergic reaction), and gluten intolerance – independent of celiac disease.

Celiac disease refers to a permanent reaction to the consumption of gluten. The onset of this disease may result from an interaction with immunological, environmental or genetic factors, and can be diagnosed through blood test or biopsy.

Gluten intolerance or sensitivity (associated with the difficulty to digest gluten) occurs when gluten is ingested, through the manifestation of some gastrointestinal symptoms, and improves when this component is eliminated from the diet.

What can happen to a person who is allergic or intolerant, when consuming foods that contain gluten?

In the case of celiac disease, when gluten is ingested, the immune system responds quickly with some consequences that are manifested by the following symptoms:

  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal distension
  • Flatulence
  • Irritability
  • Constipation

In gluten intolerance, some of these symptoms may also be present, especially abdominal distension/bloating, flatulence, and intestinal changes like diarrhea and constipation.

What should an allergic or intolerant person look for on product labels?

 

read labels

Reading food labels is extremely important to choose foods in a balanced and consciously way.

In the case of food restrictions, reading the labels becomes more important, as it will directly interfere with the health and wellbeing.

The main thing to check on the label, is the list of ingredients. Do not consume products that contain:

  • Wheat flour
  • Whole wheat flour
  • Spelt flour
  • Oatmeal (unless certified gluten-free)
  • Barley
  • Rye

It’s also mandatory to identify allergenic components mentioned in bold, so after the list of ingredients, it’s important to check the list of allergens.

Finally, most gluten-free foods mention “gluten free” on the label, which is an excellent help at the time of choosing.

Foods to avoid and alternatives

What to avoid

avoid

Although the list of gluten-free foods is large, there are many foods to avoid (unless they are especially produced without gluten), such as:

Bread, pasta, crackers, breakfast cereals, toast, cereal flours that contain gluten, all kinds of pastries, ready-made burgers, breaded foods, fish fillets (breaded), fish or vegetable bars, nuggets, lasagna and pizza.

Besides foods, you should also be careful with dietary supplements, as they may contain gluten or traces of gluten, and therefore it’s necessary to check the ingredients.

At Zumub you can find a great offer of gluten-free dietary supplements.

Alternatives

allowed

There are foods that are naturally gluten-free, and for this reason, they are a safe choice, such as:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Potatoes
  • Rice
  • Nuts
  • Corn or rice crackers
  • Oil
  • Meat and fish

Concerning alternative flours, they can be consumed:

If you’re not intolerant, should you restrict gluten?

As mentioned above, gluten allergic or intolerant people should restrict this protein present in many foods.

But if you’re not one of these cases, should you restrict it or not?

Well…as I told, there’s no consensus, and the same professional may have different opinion depending on the person.

To restrict gluten ‘’just because’’, without being fully aware of what you’re doing, isn’t beneficial. Plus, often people fall into the error of ‘’gluten-free’’ without paying attention to other ingredients, such as sugar amount in the food (which is the case for gluten-free cookies).

Gluten-free won’t make it healthier, but it can be safer for those who don’t feel comfortable consuming them or who simply can’t.

In conclusion

Whether celiac patient or intolerant, you should be aware of your degree of intolerance to gluten, and get to know your own body well, see how it responds to different stimuli.

To be safe in food preparation and food consumption, it’s fundamental to know how to interpret food labels, and to make conscious and balanced choices.

Comments

The information included in this article concerns the authors opinion only.

About Liliana Silvestre

Liliana Silvestre
Liliana Silvestre is a nutritionist with a degree in dietetics from ESSLEI. She has professional experience in various fields of nutrition, and she has a passion for healthy cooking. Her goal is to help as many people as possible to transform their lifestyles adopting more healthy habits.

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