Gluten is a protein that occurs naturally in several types of grains. Wheat, barley, rye, and oats all contain gluten. Recently there has been an upsurge in people going gluten-free. Let’s go on to explore the facts and myths related to gluten.
Gluten causes a reaction in certain people, namely those with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Gluten may cause the small intestines to become inflamed when ingested. The short-term effects might include pain, gas, diarrhea and can lead to malabsorption of nutrients. The long-term effects may include weight loss, impaired development, and affected growth.
Celiac disease may develop at any phase in life, from infancy to adulthood. So a person who has tolerated gluten all their lives might develop it.
Individuals who have a family history, Caucasians or people with European heritage are more likely to develop Celiac disease. The incidence of the Celiac disease is around 1%.
Interestingly though according to a recently published study in the journal, Digestion – 86% of the people who identify themselves as being gluten intolerant are not and can tolerate gluten. Another interesting fact is that 83% of the people with Celiac disease haven’t been diagnosed. The reason is that the symptoms are so varied. Let’s take for example three individuals, while (A) may suffer from constipation, (B) may have diarrhea and (C) would have regular and normal bowel movements.
People feel that the prevalence of gluten intolerance has gone up, though there isn’t a significant change. Although we have to take two factors into account:
(1) We have incorporated wheat products in our lives more than ever before.
(2) Damaged gut flora is also on the rise due to the usage of antibiotics and also due to consumption of food that the body doesn’t digest; triggering an immune response for the body to target undigested gluten as a microbial invader.
A research by Dr. Daphne Miller, an associate professor of family and community medicine at University of California at San Diego says “Part of what may be driving (a) gluten-free diet trend is simply a belief fueled by the marketing and media, that these foods are healthier.”
It has also been reported that unnecessarily restricting gluten in counterproductive.
We can safely conclude that although gluten allergy and Celiac disease are present in the society most people going off gluten are merely following a fad.