Is Gluten A Benefit Or A Harm To The Body?

The answer is that it can be either, but it all depends on the individual.

What is gluten?

Gluten is the name for the proteins naturally found in grains. In medical literature, all grains contain proteins that is theoretically gluten. It acts like a binder, holding food together and gives them a chewy and elastic quality, so it is important to the making of baked goods. Besides that, gluten may also act as prebiotic, feeding gut flora in your body and help keeping the balance of your gut flora. However, negative media attention on gluten has caused some people to doubt it place in a healthy diet. The truth is that there is little research to support these claims; in fact, there are many researchers suggest the opposite.

What happens when you take gluten-free diet?

Gluten-free diet refers to a diet that eliminates all foods containing or contaminated with gluten. Evidence revealed that non-coeliac diseases individuals who avoid gluten in their diet may result in reduced consumption of beneficial whole grains, which may in turn have increased risk of heart diseases.[1] Besides that, gluten-free diet may lead to dysbiosis (imbalance of gut flora). It was found that there is a decrease in protective gut flora species and an increase in harmful bacterial species in group of generally healthy individuals who avoid gluten.[2]

Many people often opt for food products with labels of “gluten-free” because they thought they are a “healthier option”. However, these food products are made with processed unfortified rice, tapioca, corn, or potato flours which tend to have less fibre and more calories, sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. Several studies have found a trend toward weight gain and obesity among those who follow a gluten-free diet (including those with coeliac disease).

A gluten-free diet has no health-related benefit for people who do not have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance. Don’t be swayed by an elite athlete/ movie star/ marketer to restrict your diet when there’s no medical reason to do so. It’s up to you and your personal healthcare professional—not a celebrity or a book author—to take care of your health.

So, when gluten is a problem?

Some people react differently to gluten where their body senses it as a foreign substance/ toxin, causing their immune system to overreact and attack it. Subsequently, this event leads to inflammation alongside with a series of side effect including fatigue, bloating, constipation, diarrhoea, weight loss, malnutrition and skin allergy.  People with the following conditions should reduce gluten intake and be selective in choosing grains for consumption:

  • Non-celiac gluten sensitivity/ gluten sensitive enteropathy (GSE) / gluten intolerance
  • Wheat allergy
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Coeliac diseases

Do note that not all grains have the same gluten content. The form of gluten found in wheat (including spelt, kamut, triticale and all varieties of wheat), barley, and rye are the troublemakers. Whereas other grains such as sorghum, quinoa, buckwheat, amaranth, teff and rice are free from the form of gluten found in varieties of wheat, barley, rye, and their derivatives, therefore making them safe for people with gluten sensitivity issues. Oats are often contaminated with gluten because they may be processed in the same facilities as gluten-containing grains like wheat, rye, and barley. Be sure to look out for pure oats or labelled “gluten-free” oats before purchasing.

Unsure if you are one of them? Seeking solution for bloated tummy? Have questions? Ask Broca (personal certified nutritionist) now! Call / Whatsapp: +6011 5556 2885.

References:

  • Lebwohl, Benjamin, et al. “Long Term Gluten Consumption in Adults without Celiac Disease and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease: Prospective Cohort Study.” BMJ, 2017, doi:10.1136/bmj.j1892.
  • Sanz, Yolanda. “Effects of a Gluten-Free Diet on Gut Microbiota and Immune Function in Healthy Adult Humans.” Gut Microbes, vol. 1, no. 3, 2010, pp. 135–137., doi:10.4161/gmic.1.3.11868.

Jacie Chiew

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