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What is gluten?

What is gluten?

what is gluten

Have you noticed the letters GF next to menu items at your favorite restaurants? Those letters stand for Gluten Free, a designation virtually unheard of in the United States before 2000. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. When water and wheat combine, gluten gives the mixture its tacky, glue-like texture. This “glue” bonds your favorite breads, crackers, and pastries together.

Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which gluten causes gut inflammation, traces back to 100 AD. It wasn’t until the 1940s when a shortage of wheat caused improvement in celiac patients that doctors connected this protein with gut problems.

Only 1% of the U.S. population holds an official celiac diagnosis although 30% of Americans eat a reduced gluten or GF diet.

Why do people eat gluten-free if they don’t have to?

For Celiac patients, gluten causes an autoimmune response in the gut which prevents absorption of nutrients. In these patients, this protein may also cause bloating, diarrhea, headache, tiredness, skin rashes, and anemia. Removing this protein from their diet allows their intestines to heal, restores absorption and clears other symptoms.

Since 2000, claims abound about how the protein affects other autoimmune diseases like diabetes and how a gluten-free diet may benefit people with autism. People may attempt a reduced or GF diet in order to lose weight, because it’s a fad or because they believe it may relieve inflammation symptoms from other diseases.

Should I consider a gluten-free diet?

Before beginning any new diet, visit your healthcare provider. If you have symptoms of celiac, tests to confirm the diagnosis must be made before a patient begins a GF diet. No diagnosis may be made if the gut heals because of the lack of gluten before testing is completed.

Manufacturers fortify bread products with fiber and vitamins necessary for healthy living. By cutting this protein from your diet without a celiac diagnosis, you may do more harm than good. A visit with your provider and a nutritionist can help you decide if GF living would benefit your health.

Is gluten-free eating healthy?

Yes and no. If you replace gluten-containing junk food with gluten-free junk food, it’s still junk food. Diets based on fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats and fish, legumes and grains like corn can improve your nutrient intake, but these foods are always recommended whether you’re eating GF or not.

If you’re experiencing inflammation, digestion problems or unexplained weight loss, make an appointment with one of our providers today. Whether gluten is your culprit or not, our providers can help you find the way back to health.

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