What is Gluten Free?

What is Gluten Free

There are diets and more diets, which each new kind dubbed healthier and beneficial than the other. Amid the growing variety of modern diets, there’s one called a gluten-free diet. Recent years have seen the gluten-free diet emerge as an increasingly popular diet option for the health-conscious around the world. Few, however, really know what gluten-free really means.

The meaning of gluten

To define gluten-free, it’s important to first understand what gluten means. Gluten is actually a kind of protein found mainly in certain grains. Actually, it’s a mix of proteins that are collectively dubbed as gluten. You’ll find this protein in foods made from gluten sources. Or it can be added to low-protein foods to boost their protein levels. Wheat, rye and barley are some of the common grains known to contain gluten. It’s also found in triticale – a wheat-rye cross breed. Ice-cream, breads, wheat products and the new variety of grain called the triticale are also packed with gluten. Triticale is the base for several breads, pasta and cereals.

Properties of gluten

As the name suggests, gluten functions like glue. So like glue, it naturally holds something together. And that something is food. So now you know where food gets its shape – from the glue-like gluten of course. From dough to beer and soy sauces, there’s a wide variety of foods to which gluten lends an elastic feel and texture. Its elasticity makes gluten ideal for preparation of several cosmetics, especially skin creams and hair products. Gluten works to add stability to such products.

Need for gluten-free diet

So food that doesn’t contain the gluten protein is naturally gluten-free. Adopting a gluten-free diet means excluding all those grains and other foods that contain gluten. The need for a gluten-free diet arises mainly in the treatment of celiac disease. Celiac disease is the result of inflammation caused by gluten in the small intestine of some people. You’d need to go for a gluten-free diet if you’re suffering from celiac disease. A gluten-free diet also becomes necessary for people who are allergic to gluten.

So a gluten-free diet helps in the treatment of celiac disease. It controls the symptoms of celiac disease, and also prevents further complications arising from intestinal damage. In some cases, however, people can suffer symptoms of gluten without suffering from celiac disease.  A gluten-free diet also helps people who’re sensitive to gluten but are otherwise non-celiac.

Other benefits of gluten-free diet

Apart from celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there are some other gluten-related health conditions that may require you to eliminate gluten from your diet. These are wheat allergy, gluten ataxia and dermatitis herpetiformis (DH). Gluten ataxia is a neurological condition underlined by loss of coordination and balance. DH, or Duhring’s disease as it’s commonly called, is a blistering skin condition that’s marked by water-filled blisters and is chronic.

A gluten-free diet is also beneficial in improving gastrointestinal symptoms in some other health problems such as multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, HIV enteropathy and rheumatoid arthritis.

More on gluten-free diet

Despite the limited biological and nutritional role played by gluten in human growth, it’s generally considered advisable to go for a balanced diet. Opting for commercial gluten-free products to replace natural foods can be particularly detrimental for health as these foods are low in nutritional quality. Since these replacement products have higher lipid and carbohydrate content than foods containing gluten, consuming such products may cause nutritional deficiencies in the body.

So if you need to follow a gluten-free diet you’re well advised to go for foods that are naturally gluten-free. This means you should add stuff like fish, meat, eggs, potatoes, fruits, vegetables, nuts, maize and rice to your diet. If at all you decide to go for commercially prepare gluten-free foods, do ensure that it is packed with minerals and vitamins. Pseudo cereals and minor cereals are also a good alternative since they’re high on nutrition. Just check out the labels to ensure there’s really no gluten in it, perhaps in hidden form.

Conclusion

Following a gluten-free diet, without your favorite breads, pasta, ice creams etc., will always be challenging and difficult. Patience is the key if you’re planning to make a switch to such a diet. After all, it’s not going to be easy to cut out cakes, pastries, beer, cereals, cookies and muffins from your food for life.

But fortunately, just like sugar-free delicacies, it’s now possible to find pastas and breads minus the gluten. You can easily find tasty gluten-free food products online now, at the click of a button. There’re restaurants in fact that offer gluten-free food on their menu. You can also check out Kelley Herring’s e-book ‘Guilt-Free Desserts‘ for gluten-free dessert recipes. Whatever food you opt for, the important thing to remember is to ensure that your diet continues to be balanced and healthy, even without the gluten.

Incidentally, many people not suffering from any of the gluten-related diseases or allergies are also moving towards gluten-free diet. That’s because gluten is increasingly being attributed to several common physical and mental disorders, such as obesity, dementia, autism and depression. However, in the absence of any scientific evidence on this, health experts and nutritionists warn against going gluten-free unless absolutely unavoidable.

Given the scarcity of sufficient data, it’d be advisable to consider the possibility of some unknown benefits of gluten on the human body. After all, you wouldn’t want to end up with some other, perhaps more serious, health complications and in the process of curing yourself of gluten-related problems.

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