Is Gluten Bad For Us?

With around 1% of the population suffering from Coeliac disease, and a higher number from non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (gluten intolerance), gluten free diets have become a hot topic and popular even among those who do not suffer from gluten sensitivity, causing many others to ask “Is going gluten free healthy?” While going gluten free is certainly the healthiest choice for those with wheat or gluten sensitivity, it may be the healthiest choice for everyone. Let's take a look at what gluten sensitivity is and why going gluten free can be a healthy choice for all.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, spelt, rye, barley, triticale and others. It is what gives bread dough its elasticity and what makes bread somewhat chewy. This protein can cause undesirable symptoms in many people and if left untreated can damage their intestines, disrupt their mood, affect weight and even their bones.

What is Gluten Sensitivity?

Gluten sensitivity is an immune reaction to gluten in the diet. The damage caused by this sensitivity causes people who have it to be unable to digest nutrients that are necessary for good health and survival itself. Over an extended period of time if a person who has gluten sensitivity continues to ingest foods containing this protein, they will eventually damage their intestines and become seriously ill. Since the body can't digest needed nutrients the body is in affect starving no matter how much food a person eats because it isn’t getting the vitamins and minerals the body needs to remain healthy and functioning.

Signs and Symptoms of Gluten Sensitivity

The problem with gluten sensitivity is it is rarely picked up on immediately as most of the signs of symptoms of this sensitivity frequently can be found in a number of other conditions as well. These symptoms include:

• Joint & bone pain
• Brain fog
• Abnormal menses & hormone disruption
• Infertility
• Diarrhoea
• Constant gassy or bloated feeling
• Nausea
• Skin problems

Diagnosis is usually made through a blood test or biopsy for coeliac disease but if you have a feeling gluten isn’t good for you then your next step is to remove it from your diet for a few weeks and re-introduce it again (an elimination diet). There’s a strict protocol for this so if you’re interested in exploring it further please get in touch.

Is Gluten Harmful? Debunking Myths and Understanding Its Impact on Health

Gluten is not bad for everyone. It is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, and for most people, it does not cause any health issues. However, certain individuals need to avoid gluten due to specific health conditions:

  1. Coeliac disease: People with this autoimmune disorder must strictly avoid gluten, as it triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine lining, leading to severe complications if left untreated.
  2. Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS): Some individuals may not have coeliac disease but still experience symptoms after consuming gluten. In this case, following a gluten-free diet can help alleviate their symptoms.
  3. Wheat allergy: People with a wheat allergy should avoid gluten-containing wheat products, as they may experience allergic reactions ranging from mild to life-threatening.

For individuals without these conditions, there is no evidence to suggest that gluten is harmful or should be avoided. In fact, whole grains containing gluten, such as whole wheat, barley, and rye, can be part of a healthy diet and provide essential nutrients, fiber, and other health benefits. However, it is essential to consume these grains as part of a balanced and varied diet, focusing on whole, minimally processed foods.

Coeliac Disease vs. Gluten Sensitivity: Understanding the Key Differences

Coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity are two distinct conditions related to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. Here are the main differences between the two:

  1. Autoimmune response: Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system mistakenly attacks the small intestine's lining upon gluten ingestion. This can lead to damage to the intestinal villi, which are responsible for nutrient absorption. Gluten sensitivity, also known as non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), does not involve an autoimmune response or damage to the intestinal lining. It is not yet fully understood, but it is thought to be a response to gluten or other components in wheat that triggers symptoms.
  2. Diagnosis: Coeliac disease can be diagnosed through blood tests for specific antibodies and confirmed with a small intestine biopsy. Gluten sensitivity does not have specific diagnostic tests or biomarkers. It is typically diagnosed when a person experiences symptoms after gluten ingestion but tests negative for coeliac disease and wheat allergy.
  3. Symptoms: Both coeliac disease and gluten sensitivity can cause similar symptoms, such as gastrointestinal issues (bloating, diarrhoea, constipation), fatigue, headaches, and joint pain. However, untreated coeliac disease can lead to severe complications, including malnutrition, anaemia, osteoporosis, neurological problems, and even certain types of cancer, due to the damage it causes to the small intestine.
  4. Treatment: For both conditions, the primary treatment involves following a strict gluten-free diet. This helps alleviate symptoms and, in the case of coeliac disease, allows the damaged intestinal lining to heal. However, the consequences of accidentally consuming gluten are generally more severe for those with coeliac disease compared to individuals with gluten sensitivity.

In summary, coeliac disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes damage to the small intestine when gluten is consumed, while gluten sensitivity is a less severe and non-autoimmune response to gluten. Both conditions share similar symptoms, but coeliac disease can lead to serious complications if left untreated.

FODMAP Intolerance vs. Gluten Intolerance

Gluten intolerance is a commonly reported issue, but recent studies suggest that many people who believe they are gluten intolerant might actually be experiencing a FODMAP intolerance instead. FODMAPs, which stands for Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols, are a group of short-chain carbohydrates found in various foods that can be difficult for some individuals to digest. These compounds may trigger symptoms similar to those of gluten intolerance, such as bloating, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea. Consequently, those who think they have gluten intolerance might see improvements in their symptoms by following the low-FODMAP limits of wheat and fructans rather than simply avoiding all gluten-containing foods.

What Gluten Foods Should Be Avoided if You Have Gluten Sensitivity?

Foods to exclude when going gluten free are breads, pastas, and cereals made from wheat, barley, rye and for some people oats. Also any processed food that doesn't specifically say it is gluten free as many processed foods use grain based flours as thickeners. In addition, those who have coeliac or are very sensitive to gluten have to avoid the possibility of having their gluten free foods contaminated by even minute amounts of gluten. This means that gluten free foods need to be stored on a separate shelf than foods that contain gluten and prepared in pans using utensils that have not been used for any food that may contain gluten.

Gluten Free Foods You Can Eat Freely?

Since cutting out all gluten containing foods from your diet can leave big gaps it’s important to plan what foods you can increase. These are -

• A wide variety of fresh fruits
• A wide variety of fresh vegetables especially leafy greens
• Dairy products such as yoghurt
• Legumes & beans
• Meats & Poultry
• Grains such as rice, quinoa, buckwheat and millet

Replacing those Gluten foods with a wide variety of naturally gluten free foods will help you to be healthier and feel better day in and day out.

Discover the Gut Fix Program: Uncover If Avoiding Wheat Is Right for You

The Gut Fix Program is a comprehensive approach designed to help you understand your body's unique needs and determine whether avoiding wheat and gluten could be beneficial in alleviating your symptoms. Through careful assessment, a personalised plan, and guided support, our program aims to identify potential dietary triggers and implement appropriate strategies to improve your gut health.

By participating in the Gut Fix Program, you'll receive expert guidance to navigate the complexities of your digestive issues and gain clarity on whether eliminating wheat from your diet is necessary or helpful for your individual situation. Ultimately, our goal is to empower you to make informed decisions about your diet and optimise your overall well-being by addressing the root causes of your digestive discomfort.

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