Gluten is a very controversial topic, with ‘experts’ claiming we have to quit gluten in order to be healthy. So here is everything you need to know about gluten, and whether or not you should consider going gluten free!
What is it?
Gluten is a storage protein found in certain grains.
It is essentially is what makes foods stretchy and expand. Sometimes, gluten can be linked to causing leaky gut syndrome due to its expanding properties.
Leaky gut syndrome is when cells in the gut lining lose tightness, and allow fragments of food to leak into the blood. This is linked to a variety of health conditions, including autoimmune diseases.
Grains that contain gluten include:
- Wheat starch
E.g. Pasta, bread, flour, cakes, biscuits, pastry and ready-made sauces.
Coeliac’s disease is where the body attacks the lining of the digestive tract in response to gluten consumption.
This creates some severe symptoms, including:
- Severe or occasional diarrhoea, constipation, bloating or wind
- Persistent nausea and vomiting
- Recurrent stomach pain or cramping
- Iron, B12 or B9 (folate) deficiency
- Mouth ulcers
If individuals with coeliac’s continue to consume gluten, damage to the digestive tract will become so severe, nutrients will not be absorbed. This can result in multiple nutrient deficiencies which can lead to further discomfort and the onset of other health conditions.
Therefore, it is imperative that coeliac’s sufferers completely avoid gluten to stay healthy.
Gluten intolerance (non-coeliac)
Some people can have what we call intolerance or sensitivity. This is essentially when consuming gluten causes a variety of symptoms, without the presence of antibodies or long-term damage. The reason why is not fully known, but it could be linked to leaky gut syndrome.
Symptoms of sensitivity include: (these are usually less severe than symptoms in coeliac’s)
- Excessive flatulence
- Diarrhoea or constipation
- Brain fog/ poor concentration
Some people also benefit from quitting gluten with health conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome and chronic skin conditions like eczema. Research suggests that gluten can make inflammation worse in the body, and can increase autoantibodies seen in some autoimmune conditions.
If you do not have any digestive issues or health conditions, there is essentially no point in quitting gluten. Individuals can be perfectly healthy consuming gluten, so please do not go down the route of thinking cutting out certain food groups makes you ‘healthy’.
My general advice, is if you have any digestive issues or unexplained symptoms, go and see your doctor and consider quitting gluten for 6-8 weeks to see if this relieves symptoms. If it does not relieve symptoms, you are fine to continue consuming gluten.
Gluten and type 1 diabetes
Interestingly, type 1 diabetes and coeliac’s disease seem to be linked. Many people living with type 1 also have coeliac’s.
Research has shown that the autoantibodies (antibodies that cause the onset of autoimmune diseases) seen in type 1 diabetes are very similar to those seen in coeliac’s.
So if you are living with type 1 diabetes, I would absolutely recommend asking your doctor for a coeliac’s blood test.
If this comes back negative, but you suffer from any of the gluten sensitivity symptoms listed above, I would definitely quitting gluten for 6-8 weeks (the longer the better) to see if this helps.
Thank you for reading gluten – what is the big deal? I really hope you learnt something new and have a better understanding of gluten! Be sure to subscribe and follow me on Instagram!
If you liked this post, be sure to check out Autoimmune conditions linked with type 1 diabetes and Keeping your feet healthy with diabetes!