What is gluten and why is it harmful

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It is difficult to imagine good nutrition without cereals, but you should always control their amount in the diet. Most cereals, barley, wheat, rye, and other crops contain gluten. This is a completely natural substance and it is also called “gluten”, which in its essence is a protein that is accumulated in plants for nutrition during growth. It quickly saturates, due to the fact that, as it were, glues the contents of the stomach into one mass.
The dangerous property of gluten is that it causes intolerance in about 0.5-1% of the total population of developed countries. For this reason, in many stores you can even find shelves with products labeled “gluten free”.

What is gluten in foods

Gluten is found in all foods containing wheat, barley or rye. Gluten is a substance that is added to convenience foods and sausages, ketchups, ice cream and other industrially manufactured foods as a thickener. We are even talking about cases when flour from these cereals is used as a roast. Even if flour is not included in the recipe, gluten can be added to shape the food.

Is gluten harmful at all

In fact, gluten is dangerous only for people who have been diagnosed with celiac disease, that is, intolerance to foods that contain gluten, which destabilizes the stomach, affecting the small intestine and very quickly leads to gastrointestinal dystrophy. The disease is usually found in childhood.

For other people, gluten is not hazardous to health. They don’t need to buy products labeled “gluten-free”, the body digests this substance like other proteins. Also, do not think that gluten-free foods are less nutritious, they are just medicinal foods that are not dietary.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that cannot occur when consuming a lot of baked goods. Simply put, pathology does not arise in the midst of life, as it is congenital.

An interesting fact is that the label about the absence of gluten in any product can be found where it cannot even be. For example, there is no such substance in meat, and if there is a sticker, you should know that this is just a marketing ploy. It is no secret that a whole movement called “gluten mainstream” has already formed in the world over the past couple of years. This is a group of people who eat gluten-free foods, although they have no contraindications to its use. Therefore, there is still a lot of controversy about the benefits of such nutrition.

Gluten intolerance

In fact, it is difficult to say the exact figure how many people on the planet have gluten intolerance. Someone speaks about 1%, and someone about 15%. Often, symptoms of intolerance are attributed to other diseases, in particular, irritable bowel syndrome.

Celiac disease what are these symptoms, diagnosis

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. It is gluten that provokes the appearance of this pathology. Once diagnosed, patients will have to give up all foods that contain gluten so as not to worsen their health.

The main symptoms include:

  • diarrhea;
  • pain in the stomach;
  • bloating;
  • flatulence;
  • nausea;
  • vomit.

In addition to the main symptoms, the patient may observe an increase or decrease in body weight, without any obvious reason for this condition. This is due to the fact that gluten disrupts metabolic processes, including disturbances in the work of the hormonal system. Numerous studies have found that irregular menstruation, fluctuations in weight during PMS can occur against the background of gluten intolerance.

Headaches can also be a sign of intolerance, especially if they occur 30-60 minutes after a meal. It can even be irritability, anxiety, and insomnia. This is due to the fact that intestinal permeability increases and inflammatory processes begin in the stomach, after gluten has got there.

Another characteristic symptom is a deterioration in the condition of the skin, nails, up to the appearance of herpetic dermatitis. Gluten provokes a deterioration in the condition of tooth enamel, in children it can be the cause of hyperactivity. Iron deficiency anemia can be a concomitant disease if it was not possible to identify gluten allergy in time. Intolerance can also lead to the development of rheumatoid arthritis, vitiligo, thyroiditis and liver disease. In childhood, the lack of timely diagnosis and treatment can cause delays in development and growth.

The classification of the disease consists of two types:

  • Typical. In which the symptoms are pronounced, with obvious manifestations of malsorption.
  • Atypical. Has mild symptoms in the gastrointestinal tract, but with manifestations in other organs, for example, the appearance of neurological symptoms.

In both cases, an increased level of antibodies can be detected in the blood.

Diagnosis of pathology is based on determining the amount of antibodies in the venous blood. The analysis is done by a biopsy of the small intestine. It is believed that an organism with such an intolerance is able to tolerate only 10 mg of gluten without any consequences.

Treatment for a diagnosis of celiac disease is based on lifelong adherence to a diet that involves the complete elimination of gluten-containing foods. A label that says that there is no gluten in a product does not mean its complete absence, but that it contains less than 20 mg of gluten per 1 kg.

If you follow a diet, the state of the body improves, a person has an appetite, symptoms disappear. But in advanced cases, the recovery process of the mucous membrane takes a long time. If the patient strictly adheres to the doctor’s recommendations, he will be able to feel the improvement after 1-2 weeks of a gluten-free diet.

Recent studies have found that celiac disease can still appear in adulthood, but if two conditions are met: a genetic predisposition and an increased consumption of foods containing gluten.

Gluten harm and benefit

For persons who do not have gluten intolerance, this substance does not pose any danger. It cannot be said that cereal crops are now the same as they were 200-300 years ago, however, there are no risks in moderate consumption of such products.

The danger for healthy people is only in a large number of foods containing gluten, hence the fullness and flatulence. Therefore, it is better to limit the consumption of fast food, baked goods and other unhealthy foods.

A gluten-free diet has only one benefit – a balanced diet. On the other hand, the complete absence of gluten in the diet is not the best indicator. Indeed, in gluten-free products, manufacturers compensate for this substance with fats and sugar, which will inevitably lead to weight gain. Therefore, such a diet is therapeutic and not low in calories.

What foods contain gluten

First of all, any food product containing wheat, barley, rye or other grain crops will necessarily contain gluten. Most of all it is found in bakery and pasta. It is thanks to this substance that lush baked goods are obtained.

Gluten can be found in sauces, mayonnaise, ketchup, yogurt, ice cream. In these products, it is used as a thickener. You can understand that gluten is eaten by the labeling “hydrolyzed protein” or “modified food starch”. You can find this component in semi-finished products and sausages. 

In fact, if you don’t have any problems with gluten absorption, then you don’t need to follow a gluten-free diet. It is a non-hazardous component of cereals if baked goods and other products are consumed in dosage amounts.

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