Arguably one of the most controversial ingredients in the modern diet, there are many disagreements over the decision to include food containing gluten into your daily eating plan. However, as research into the subject progresses many doctors are starting to agree on what happens if your eat gluten – and it is not a pretty picture.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in many grains, including wheat, barley and rye or food containing these grains. It is not nutritious and can trigger an immune response in people suffering of celiac disease. Patients with celiac disease only make up about 1% of the population but many people are cutting out gluten to feel better.Gluten is not only found in bread, it can also be found in other wheat products such as pasta, as well as products made from rye, barley, bulgur, couscous and farina, among others.
What is the Hype Around Gluten Free Diets?
According to a report by the Consumer Reports National Research Center, 63% of Americans believe that eliminating gluten from their diet will improve both their mental and physical health while one third believed it was a good strategy to avoid disease. There is some evidence that gluten can be harmful and while you may not have celiac disease you can be gluten-sensitive. Gluten-sensitive people develop symptoms like bloating, diarrhoea and abdominal pain when they eat food containing gluten.
Otherwise,many nutritionists argue that gluten free diets will not improve your health if you do not have celiac disease. It is also important to remember that gluten-free foods tend to have more sugar and fat and can cause weight gain.
Wheat and Gluten Sensitivities
Others, such as Healthline for example, warn that celiac disease is not the only reason to avoid gluten.Wheat allergies can also have a significant impact on health and wellbeing with symptoms ranging from mild nausea to severe, life-threatening anaphylaxis. A large proportion of people reports symptoms after eating gluten, even though they don’t have celiac disease or an allergy to wheat and these symptoms can even include headaches, fatigue and joint pain.
The Impact on the Brain
Neurologist Dr. Dave Perlmutter, author of the book Grain Brain, believes that gluten is harmful to health and wellbeing and has a significant negative impact on the human brain. In a recent blog post he writes that the science on the role played by carbohydrates and gluten has advanced significantly since his book was first published.
He said the biggest push-back came from people who still believe that only those with celiac disease need to avoid gluten.“How powerfully validating it has been to see the science that clearly defines the notion of non-celiac gluten sensitivity, meaning that people can experience a variety of symptoms, many of which are not gut-related, who do not carry a diagnosis of celiac disease!” New research has showed that everybody consuming gluten had levels of inflammation.
There are further reports that brain fog and fatigue are consequences of gluten sensitivities or celiac disease but that the immune response to gluten in the gut is also now being linked to degenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Taking a historic perspective, ancient diets did not contain grans and archaeologists have found less than 1% of teeth or bones in those skeletons had degenerative disease. In contrast, as soon as man started agriculture and correspondingly consuming grains, teeth decay and bone disease appeared. Apart from causing inflammation gluten can also block essential minerals like zinc.
The consumption of gluten can lead to a number of conditions including aches and pains in the legs, stomach problems, and neurological problems including depression, anxiety, ADHD and poor coordination. Grains are known to inhibit the absorption of omega-3 fatty acids, which leads to increased rates of inflammatory diseases. This inflammation can be a particular problem for people who exercise regularly, and even the best pre-workout supplements won’t completely mitigate these effects.
There has also reportedly been in increase in cases of non-celiac gluten sensitivity that presents as a different immune reaction to celiac disease. This is said to be because the proteins in wheat are gut irritants and can cause a constant inflammatory response in the gut. Thiscan even become a problem for people who are not sensitive to gluten.
One of the ways this happens is by loosening junctions between cells in the gut. This causes “leaky gut syndrome” and can be damaging to your health as it is known to aid in the development of autoimmune diseases. It can also hinder the absorption of even the best pre-work out supplements hampering your progress in keeping your body fueled.
Furthermore, gluten has been linked by medical studies to a number of other diseases including thyroid problems, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, liver disease and skin diseases. The bacteria in the gut do not like gluten at all. If the friendly bacteria in the gut die off, it has an impact on the immune system, digestion and the ability to feel full.
Therefore, although there are nutritionists and experts on both sides of this debate, it seems certain that many people would feel health benefits from removing gluten from their diet.