Before you go gluten-free, find out what exactly gluten is

Earlier today, we posted a hilarious Jimmy Kimmel video in which his crew takes to the streets to ask health conscious people the question: “What is gluten?”. To our surprise, not a lot of them actually knew, even though they claimed to follow a gluten-free diet!

OK, so most people know that gluten is found is foods like bread, pastries and pastas, but that seems to be where the understanding ends.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is actually a PROTEIN that’s found in wheat. In its natural form, it nourishes plants during germination, but in refined flour, it gives dough its elasticity, which helps bread rise. Gluten is actually made up of two different proteins: glutenin and gliadin. True gluten is often thought of as being specific to wheat, but it’s also found in barley, rye and spelt.

So, Why Does Gluten Get Such A Bad Rep?

Gluten itself isn’t bad, unless a person is gluten intolerant. This happens when an abnormal immune response is triggered in a person’s body when they eat gluten and have trouble digesting it. There are different forms of gluten intolerance, some more severe than others.

Let’s have a look at the 3 different forms of gluten intolerance:

Celiac disease (the most serious of the three)
When someone with celiac disease eats gluten, it triggers an immune response that damages their intestines and prevents them from absorbing vital nutrients. Symptoms of celiac disease include diarrhoea, sore joints and fatigue (extreme tiredness).

Wheat allergy
Gluten triggers classic allergic reactions. Watch out for classic allergic reactions such as skin, breathing and/or stomach problems such as diarrhoea.

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Non-celiac gluten insensitivity (the newest form of gluten intolerance)
With it, people with gluten sensitivity might experience certain celiac disease symptoms like joint pain, fatigue and diarrhoea, but they don’t have damaged intestines as a result.

What Does Our Resident Doctor Say?

Q: Is there any harm in dropping gluten from my diet?
We spoke to Dr Russell Thomson, Hello Doctor’s resident doctor, to get his opinion, and here’s what he had to say:

A: “Gluten-free diets are a trend at the moment, and a lot of people who aren’t gluten intolerant choose to go gluten-free. However, you might be doing more harm than good to your body, because gluten-free foods are often less nutritious, so you could risk missing out on essential nutrients like vitamin B, iron and fibre. However, if you have a genuine gluten intolerance, and you choose to eliminate it from your diet, make sure you plan your meals carefully to include plenty of fresh vegetables, fruit, lean protein, dairy and gluten-free grains like quinoa.”

Looking for healthy recipe inspiration? Check out our delicious recipes on Hello Doctor.

Article sources: http://www.webmd.com/diet/healthy-kitchen-11/truth-about-gluten
http://www.livescience.com/39726-what-is-gluten.html
http://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/gluten-free-diet