Just as Halloween and Christmas are sure to swing around every year, you can always count on a good old fad penetrating the health and fitness industry. Today’s choice? Well that would be the gluten-free diet – it’s growing in popularity and people are starting to take it seriously.
Today’s blog is going to have to be a bit of a science lesson too, so let’s hope you can think back to those endless hours spent in the biology classes during your teens.
Well firstly, for those of you that aren’t aware, gluten is found in wheat and all the grains associated with it. It’s also a good source of protein and can be used to add protein to foods that otherwise are slightly lacking.
All sounds good so far, right? Yet there’s still this call for it to be kicked! This is where the science bit comes in, because really unless somebody tells you a scientific reason why you shouldn’t be eating it, you’re probably going to keep on eating it.
Gluten contains gliadin which stimulates the release of a protein called zonulin, and it’s the zonulin that supporters of the gluten-free diet want you to know about. The reason being that zonulin interferes with the wall of your intestine and can lead to what is commonly known as a leaky gut.
In a way some of our bodies are more aware of this than others. What do I mean? Well some of us produce antibodies that directly target gliadin and see it as a threat. The problem is these antibodies can also attack the skin, brain and thyroid.
The people whose bodies do react in this way are said to have coeliac disease. The reason it’s a disease is because as a result of everything happening inside them, they experience constipation, fatigue, inflammation and many more symptoms.
So you see, these people need to avoid gluten. They aren’t doing it to be healthier or to lose weight, they’re doing it to prevent being ill. For some reason though gluten-free diets have exploded, becoming one of the most attractive nutritional programs on the market.
In fact those who do suffer from coeliac disease are often deficient in other nutrients too, particularly iron. So essentially if you don’t have coeliac disease but you choose to eat gluten-free foods you’re just treating an illness you don’t have.
Not only is gluten not as bad as everyone is making out, it’s not even the worst thing in grains! So now I introduce you to lectins – proteins that help to bind carbs. These little guys are resistant to digestion and can cause inflammation in the gut. Add that to the fact they can affect the amount of nutrients actually absorbed into the body and then gluten doesn’t look bad at all.
The thing to remember is that, say someone is deficient in iron, well this doesn’t necessarily mean their diet lacks iron, but they might not be absorbing as much iron as they should. Grains have been blamed for this, but it isn’t the gluten causing the problem.
If you suffer from coeliac disease or you have any other sort of sensitivity to wheat then gluten should be removed from your diet. If you think that removing gluten is healthy, or that it is helping you progress, stop wasting your time.
The scientific evidence that gluten is in some way bad for us isn’t only small, it’s non-existent. And if you aren’t going to take my word for it, go and ask a doctor, they’ll tell you exactly the same.
If you still aren’t convinced after all that, don’t worry, there’s someone who strongly supports the idea of a gluten-free diet and she will be more than happy to take your side. What’s her name? Miley Cyrus, so surely she must be right…