What It Really Means To Go Gluten-Free
- 3 mins read
- Written by: Jillian Lai Mei Siew
Gluten is one word that has gained a lot of attention in the food industry. You might have read some food brands advertising that they make gluten-free products. But exactly what is this gluten-free fad, and what are gluten allergies? Why do some people have gluten intolerance? Let’s read and find out.
What is gluten and where to find it?
Though this word sounds a lot like glutton, its meaning could not be more different. Gluten is a protein found in most cereal grains like wheat, rye and barley. Here’s a fun fact about gluten: it is responsible for the chewy texture of your bread, including pizza!
What is gluten sensitivity?
Over the last decade or so, gluten has come into a lot of disrepute due to the increasing number of cases of gluten-related disorders. Up to 6% of the global population may be affected by gluten sensitivity. These disorders are inflammatory reactions of the body to the gluten protein. What this means is, our body mistakenly thinks gluten protein is a foreign invader and needs to be eliminated from our body. This allergic component is mainly present in grains like wheat, rye and barley.
Gluten sensitivity is a part of a bigger group of disorders called Gluten Related Disorders. These include conditions like Celiac Disease (CD), wheat allergy and Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). These terms are often used interchangeably. But make no mistake, they are different conditions.
While Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder, wheat allergy is specific to allergic reactions after consuming wheat products. However, the major share of individuals affected by gluten-related disorders has Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). These people have an immune response to gluten and sometimes to certain sugars called FODMAPS present in grains. This response leads to inflammation in the body. Inflammation in the body can do a lot of damage. It can manifest as a number of digestive systems symptoms
What are the symptoms of non-celiac gluten sensitivity?
You may have gluten sensitivity if you have these symptoms:
● Constipation or diarrhoea
● Excessive bloating
● Joint pain
● Stomach ache
● Unexplained mood changes
● Lack of ability to think clearly
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity can have symptoms similar to celiac disease. However, it does not present with intestinal damage like the latter.
What is a gluten-free diet?
A gluten-free diet is a diet plan which strictly excludes glutens and FODMAPS. Known gluten-containing grains like wheat, barley and rye and all products made out of these are strictly kept away from the diet.
A gluten-free diet may be based on gluten-free foods, such as meat, fish, eggs, milk and dairy products, legumes, nuts, fruits, vegetables and potatoes. Quinoa, rice, corn, sorghum buckwheat and amaranth are a few of the preferred cereals in a gluten-free diet. Even though few other grains like maize and rice also contain gluten, they usually do not cause any harmful effects in people with NCGS. Starch-based foods like sago, tapioca, arrowroot and certain millets are considered safe to eat in case of gluten sensitivity.
Gluten sensitivity can seem a lot to deal with. Especially since most cuisines have some form of gluten-containing grains. However, it does not have to mean that you can’t enjoy a good meal. Following a gluten-free diet may seem challenging, but it can help keep digestive problems at bay.
So if you are gluten-intolerant, say no to gluten for better digestion!
1. Al-Toma A, Volta U, Auricchio R, Castillejo G, Sanders D, Cellier C, Mulder CJ, Lundin KAE. European Society for the Study of Coeliac Disease (ESSCD) guideline for coeliac disease and other gluten-related disorders. United European Gastroenterol J. 2019. Doi: 10.1177/2050640619844125.
2. Food and Drug Administration (January 2007). “Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods”
4. Saturni L, Ferretti G, Bacchetti T (January 2010). “The gluten-free diet: safety and nutritional quality”. Nutrients (Review). 2 (1): 16–34.
5. Comino I, Moreno MD, Sousa C (November 2015). “Role of oats in celiac disease”. World Journal of Gastroenterology. 21 (41): 11825–31.
6. Penagini F, Dilillo D, Meneghin F, Mameli C, Fabiano V, Zuccotti GV (November 2013). “Gluten-free diet in children: an approach to a nutritionally adequate and balanced diet”