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Corporate Wellness, Nutrition

Is Gluten Really That Bad?

In the grocery store, you’ll see signs touting gluten-free products everywhere. It can scare you into believing that gluten is dangerous when it’s not. While some people have a reaction to products containing gluten and should avoid them, not everyone is sensitive to it, or have an allergy, or celiac disease. Just as some people get digestive issues from dairy, others may have the same problem digesting gluten. Gluten isn’t in everything. It’s found primarily in wheat but is also in rye, barley, triticale, malt, brewer’s yeast, and wheat starch.

Gluten makes the dough more elastic, stretchable, and chewier.

Bread higher in gluten doesn’t crumble. Gluten forms when the two proteins in flour, glutenin and gliadin, mix with liquid. The more you knead the batter or mix it, the more gluten develops to create strong strands that give bread the chewiness many people love. Gluten sensitivity didn’t exist in the 1950s. Part of the reason may be that doctors didn’t understand it existed, but changes in agriculture also boosted gluten sensitivity. Since the 1960s, most farmers raise a type of wheat that’s higher in gluten, which means there’s more gluten in the average diet than ever. It may be why more people have digestive issues emanating from gluten consumption.

If you have gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, going gluten-free is vital.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that people with a genetic predisposition may develop. About 1% of the population has this disease. Celiac disease can affect the whole body. Gluten sensitivity is called non-celiac sensitivity and gluten intolerance. It primarily affects the gut. The difference is that your immune system attacks gluten when you have gluten sensitivity. When you have celiac disease, it attacks your whole body, particularly the intestines. Symptoms vary widely and can include body wide symptoms, like itchiness, blistery skin rash, migraines, and digestive issues.

Gluten is in products you might not suspect.

Read labels to check for gluten, especially in baked goods, pasta, cereals, and bread. It’s in soups, soy sauce, ketchup, and salad dressing. Should you purchase a product because it’s gluten-free, even if you don’t have a problem with gluten? The answer is a resounding NO! Many products are naturally gluten-free, like fruits and vegetables. Other gluten-free products have added salt, sugar, or saturated fat to make them taste good and give them the texture gluten provides.

  • If you give up products with gluten, such as pastry, bread, and pasta, and replace them with healthier options, then giving up gluten can be beneficial. However, giving up high-calorie foods, without worrying about gluten, is a better option.
  • People with diabetes may benefit from going gluten-free. Studies show that the incidence of celiac disease increases if you have diabetes. It’s 1 in 100 for the general population and 1 in 10 for diabetics.
  • Going gluten-free isn’t a good idea if you don’t have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. A gluten-free diet is often lower in fiber, magnesium, and folic acid. It can increase your risk of heart disease.
  • Eating naturally gluten-free foods, like brown rice and quinoa, is healthy. Quinoa is also one of the few vegetarian sources of complete proteins, so it makes a good option for meatless Mondays.

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