If you have celiac disease then you already know just how vital it is to your health to completely avoid gluten, the naturally-occurring protein found in cereal grains like wheat, rye, and barley. For people with celiac disease, their bodies actually view gluten as a serious threat and – when consumed – gluten causes damage to the small intestines, which can then lead to many other health issues. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, an estimated 1 in 100 people worldwide have this genetic autoimmune disorder and 2.5 million Americans are undiagnosed and are at risk for long-term health complications.1
But it’s not just celiac sufferers who have a problem with gluten. Even if you test negatively for celiac disease, it is possible to have a gluten intolerance or sensitivity. While symptoms of celiac disease and gluten intolerance can overlap, gluten intolerance typically means that you’re unable to properly break down gluten, which results in unwanted digestive symptoms like gas and bloating (though not intestinal damage). A gluten sensitivity, meanwhile, can trigger various side effects like brain fog, skin rashes, and joint pain. Another major difference: while celiac disease in incurable, it is possible to overcome a gluten sensitivity.
The worst part? Many people with a gluten intolerance or sensitivity don’t even realize that gluten is at the root of the problems, as symptoms can be delayed up to 48 hours after eating the protein. For this reason, I actually recommend that people suffering from stubborn health conditions consider an elimination diet that removes gluten for a while (3–4 weeks) and then reintroduce it in order to determine if gluten is sabotaging their health.
Still not convinced you should give up gluten? Even if you don’t have an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten, many people find that they just feel better overall when they don’t eat it. Read on for five reasons you may want to skip the bread basket, too.
5 Reasons To Avoid Gluten
1. Gluten Is An Anti-Nutrient
Scientific research confirms that gluten is a type of antinutrient found in grains and when consumed by humans, it can have some highly unwanted health effects.2 Gluten binds to certain amino acids (proteins), essential vitamins, and minerals, making them unabsorbable —which means your body can miss out on much-needed nutrients. As an anti-nutrient, gluten can also interfere with normal digestion and cause bloating, gas, constipation, and diarrhea due to its negative effect on bacteria living in the gut, especially if you’re sensitive to it.
2. Modern Wheat Is Really Bad
When you avoid gluten, you also can’t help but avoid wheat products, as wheat is one of the main sources of gluten. So why is this a good thing for everyone? Unfortunately, today’s wheat no longer resembles the wheat of our ancestors. Modern wheat has been cross-bred with other grains and species (also known as hybridization) so that it has a higher yield. Unfortunately, this hybridized wheat also contains fewer nutrients and more carbohydrates than the traditional grain.
The history of the genetic changes in wheat has been linked to the increase in chronic diseases and the rise of obesity around the globe. Wheat hybridization has actually created new strains of gluten (at least one study found 14 new ones!) and is said to be the reason why so many more people are having trouble with gluten in recent years. The hybridization of wheat has also caused changes in the starch and gluten, making wheat highly addictive — which is clearly not helpful for anyone who is trying to keep their carb intake and waistline in a healthy place.
3. Gluten Can Cause Leaky Gut
Gluten ingestion can result in damage to the lining of the gut, causing leaky gut syndrome. Leaky gut (known in the medical community as increased intestinal permeability) is so named because the tight junctions of the digestive tract are damaged, creating holes that allow undigested food particles, harmful microbes, and other foreign invaders to leak out of the gut and into the bloodstream. Toxic waste can also leak from the inside of your intestinal wall into your bloodstream, causing an immune reaction and other health issues.
4. Gluten Is Linked To Autoimmune Diseases And Chronic Inflammation
Research has shown that by increasing the likelihood and degree of leaky gut, gluten can directly contribute to the development of autoimmune diseases as well as chronic inflammation.3 When the pro-inflammatory immune response is triggered as a result of toxins and other particles being leaked into the bloodstream, the risk of autoimmune diseases (like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis) increases, as does the risk of conditions related to chronic inflammation, including asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and depression.
5. Avoiding Gluten Can Lead To Healthier Eating Habits Overall
For some people — especially frequent eaters of foods like bread, pizza, and cake — going gluten-free can force them to swap out those processed carbs for healthier alternatives. Think about pairing your eggs with half an avocado instead of half a bagel, or trading that carb-heavy pasta for zucchini ‘noodles’.
And in the process of filling your plate with these healthy veggie options, you’ll also be increasing your intake of fiber, vitamins, and minerals and other key phytonutrients, as well as reducing your overall caloric load and making it easier to maintain a healthy weight. What you don’t want to do is replace all of your favorite gluten-filled foods with their gluten-free counterparts. Many of them are highly processed with lots of unhealthy ingredients that can actually do more harm than good.
|↑1||What is celiac disease? Celiac Disease Foundation.|
|↑2, ↑3||The Dietary Intake of Wheat and other Cereal Grains and Their Role in Inflammation. National Institutes of Health.|