“Does not contain gluten” and “gluten free” are terms that are becoming more and more common on many food items. From grocery store items to specialized plates on a trendy menu, the term is inescapable.
For some reason some believe gluten intolerance to be an imagined condition, perhaps because not all people who suffer from symptoms similar to those who have celiac disease actually have that disease. To complicate the issue more, not all celiac disease sufferers have the same symptoms and some have none at all.
What is Gluten and Where is it Found?
Gluten is a protein (or, to be correct, it is actually a group of proteins), found in staple items like wheat, barley, and rye. Many of us consume these three products or close derivatives.
The gluten in breads for example helps the product maintain the desired shape. Unfortunately, gluten exists beyond these traditional food groups. Many candies, spices, and beverages contain traces of gluten. This can make it very difficult for people with sensitivities to live a relatively normal life. Sufferers must closely examine the labeling on products to ensure that ttey are consuming the gluten free version if one exists.
Is Gluten Harmful?
Nutrients from the food we consume must undergo a complex absorption process to successfully digest. Individuals who are sensitive to gluten experience an interruption in this process; making digestion extremely difficult.
From a physical aspect, gluten is responsible for damaging the intestines. This leads to a host of problems ranging from irritable bowel syndrome to celiac disease.
Some individuals reportedly experience malnutrition due to the inability to absorb nutrients into the bloodstream. Others feel chronic join pain as a result of this intolerance.
On a neurological level, gluten may be responsible for worsening the symptoms of ADHD, autism, and anxiety. A recent study found that individuals who are gluten intolerant repeatedly experience “higher levels of depression and anxiety.”
Although research is still being conducted, the fact that gluten inhibits the absorption process is a valid reason why individuals experience these symptoms. When the body doesn’t receive important nutrients, like Vitamin B, cortisol levels are spiked. This results in higher levels of depression and increased anxiety.
Dr. Rodney Ford, a pediatrician located in New Zealand, believes that gluten is responsible for brain related challenges. Notably, the casual term “brain fog” has been attributed to consuming too many materials with gluten. This inability to think, concentrate, or remain mentally sharp are popular effects.
Although there is still much to learn regarding this hypothesis, many parents of children with ADHD find great success when they eliminate gluten from their child’s diet. Their children are able to concentrate and limit their impulsive behavior with a clear mind.
Is it Possible to Avoid Gluten?
It may seem like everything we consume has some trace of gluten within its composition. Thanks to science and a little creativity, popular brands are now coming out with gluten-free food options.
There are a wealth of alternatives and popular brands who recognize this problem and provide delicious solutions. Those who struggled with incorporating basic food items in their diet are now able to experience a new world of flavor.
Restaurants and even a few fast-food chains have jumped on the inclusion bandwagon and developed gluten-free options for their patrons.
Although gluten is dangerous to many, it’s not in itself a harmful protein. In the same way lactose affects some and does nothing for others, gluten intolerance isn’t experienced across the board.
For those who aren’t diagnosed with gluten-intolerance, moderation is key. If you believe you’re experiencing sensitivities to gluten, you should visit your doctor who will run appropriate tests to see if, in fact, you are intolerant of gluten. Please keep in mind that you need to still be consuming gluten for the tests to be accurate.