Is the obsession with a gluten-free diet just another fad or is it actually good for you? We run through the scientific evidence to help you better understand what it’s all about!
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat and related grains such as barley and rye.
Who should avoid gluten?
Coeliac disease sufferers most definitely need to avoid gluten. For coeliacs, eating gluten causes an autoimmune response which damages the gut lining. This results in the body not being able to absorb nutrients and leads to bloating, diarrhoea, nausea, constipation, headaches, weight loss, hair loss and malnutrition. This is a very serious genetic and lifelong disease and a blood test is required to diagnose this condition. You need to make sure you are not on gluten-free diet during testing as this could lead to a negative result.
Some people may not be coeliacs but react badly to gluten, in this case gluten sensitivity/intolerance is the issue and the side effects can be similar to coeliac disease. However, gluten sensitivity does not damage the lining of the gut. Unfortunately there is no proper test for this so if you are suffering with these symptoms try cutting gluten from your diet for ~2 weeks and see if your symptoms improve. You can reintroduce foods one at a time after this time and see how your body reacts.
For everyone else, there is no benefit to cutting gluten out of your diet!
Benefits of Gluten
Evidence suggests that gluten has a role to play in lowering triglycerides and oxidized low density lipoprotein (LDL). In fact, the effects of gluten on serum triglycerides and oxidized LDL are comparable to those of monounsaturated fat and soy protein.
There is preliminary evidence that foods with gluten, especially whole grain wheat products high in dietary fiber, may boost beneficial gut bacteria.
Don’t cut gluten from your diet unless you are are experiencing a negative reaction to it. A lot of people might feel better on a gluten-free diet as they have cut out processed white flour which can cause spikes in blood sugar levels and inflammation. If you really want to make a difference to your health, cut out processed and refined foods and start eating more wholegrains and vegetables!