To be or not to be Gluten Free?

What Is Gluten Anyway?

Gluten refers to the protein found in the cereal grains endosperm. Gluten both nourishes plant embryos during germination and later affects the elasticity of the dough.

Gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat, barley, and rye. Oats do not inherently contain gluten. In foods made with wheat, barley, or rye, gluten provides elasticity, helps the food maintain its shape, and gives it a chewy texture.

The Problem :

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that is triggered by ingestion of gluten leading to symptoms, such as bloating, diarrhea, or malabsorption i.e imperfect absorption of food material by the small intestine. People with Celiac disease have atypical, or non-gastrointestinal, symptoms. This tends to present in ways such as overall discomfort and fatigue. Most people with Celiac disease do not realize until after their diagnosis that these symptoms were part of that disease.

Then there is Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). It is not an autoimmune disorder, nor is it an allergy, but it does trigger symptoms similar to those seen with Celiac disease.

Due to the fact that Celiac disease was recently understood, the amount of people that have it has not increased & true Celiac disease is hardly one percent of the population but awareness has heightened. Currently, the only way to treat Celiac disease or NCGS is complete elimination of gluten from the diet.

Should you Go Gluten-Free?

Look for the symptoms of NCGS . If you have one or more of them, try avoiding the above three grains for one month.

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Keratosis pilaris (chicken skin on the back of your arms)
  • Low energy or fatigue
  • ADHD-like behavior ( Bipolar disorder causes exaggerated shifts in mood, energy, thinking, and behavior)
  • Depression
  • Abdominal pain
  • Headaches
  • Bone or joint pain
  • Chronic fatigue

On doing so, if your conditions improves significantly, then you should realise that you are a NCGS person. So staying away from Gluten will certainly improve your above condition as well as your general health.

General Caution :

This particular situation has been understood well & food manufacturers has now started making Gluten free stuffs to encash the situation. Now whether to buy & use these stuff is a critical decision. My personal opinion would be, by stopping using the three grains for a month, If you found improvement from the above symptoms, then it’s confirmed that you are Gluten sensitive. And in such case, completely avoiding the above three grains and depending on other complex carb is a much wiser decision rather than buying Gluten free manufactured or processed foods.

Also needs to be understood by most of us, that in order to make something gluten-free (which isn’t already naturally gluten-free), it requires a heavy amount of processing. During this processing, many vitamins and minerals are lost, leaving some of these foods with very little nutritional value. We already know that in order to decrease the gluten, you decrease the fiber. Lost alongside this are many B vitamins which are naturally found in grains.

Again, my personal suggestion for people who eat gluten free, choose from good complex carbs like Brown rice, Oats, Quinoa, Amaranth, Millet And Sorghum . Most of the Dark green veggies are the best complex carbs and meet the requirement of fiber.

Hope, this will help you to make a decision whether to go for gluten free or not.

Satyajit Dash
Chief Sports Nutritionist