Gluten – dietary villain or innocent bystander?

Gluten villan

Gluten – dietary villain or innocent bystander?

More than 20% of people claim to follow a gluten-free diet, although only 1% have coeliac disease, an autoimmune illness in which even trace amounts of gluten provoke the body’s immune system to attack itself. This is a serious and lifelong ailment that necessitates the complete elimination of gluten.
In Australia, only 20% of those with coeliac disease have been identified, therefore many people have the condition but are unaware of it. As a result, a small number of the initial 20% may be avoiding gluten because they have discovered that they feel better without it but have not been diagnosed.
A simple blood test can rule out coleac disease; however, you must have eaten 8-10g of gluten per day for 6 weeks prior to the test. This is approximately four slices of bread. The test looks for indicators that your body is reacting to gluten, which it can only do if you consume it on a regular basis. So, even if you have coeliac disease, you are more likely to receive a negative test result if you do not consume enough gluten.

If you are unable to tolerate gluten, gene testing can rule out coeliac disease. This can establish whether you are genetically predisposed to celiac disease. If this is negative, you can rule out coeliac disease as the source of your problems with bread and other wheat-based foods. If it is positive, you should see your doctor and a dietitian about how to complete the gluten challenge while feeling as well as possible.

In Australia, approximately half of those who avoid gluten claim they do it for overall health reasons. Now, I believe most dietitians would agree that a gluten-free diet is a challenging diet with potential hazards for your health. This is because, if you do not have coeliac disease or a true wheat allergy, a gluten-free diet may pose a health risk due to an increased risk of nutritional deficiencies. Overall, the research indicates that a gluten-free diet results in insufficient intakes of fibre, B vitamins, and micronutrients including iron and zinc. Aside from the nutritional deficiencies, a gluten-free diet is extremely restrictive, which might raise the risk of disordered eating patterns and a negative relationship with food.

However, many people report feeling better after going gluten-free. And some of that improvement comes from eating more gluten-free wholefoods like fruit, vegetables, and legumes (which are naturally gluten-free), which improves the overall quality of someone’s diet. Most people feel better when they replace processed foods with nutritious foods and plant-based options.
Another reason people may feel better is a condition known as non-coeliac wheat sensitivity. According to some well-designed research, people’s gastrointestinal symptoms improved as a result of a reduction in dietary components found in the carbohydrate element of wheat that are known to irritate the gut. Recent small but high-quality trials found that removing a carbohydrate known as fructans from the diet relieved stomach symptoms, but not gluten.
Fructans are classified as FODMAPS (fermentable, oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols). Saccharides are essentially sugar or carbohydrate compounds. These are generally undigested in the body, fermenting in the small and large intestines. This causes additional wind (which can become stuck – ouch!) or draws water into your intestines (leading to frequent trips to the toilet and cramping). Although research in this field is still in its early stages, there are some reports that wheat sensitivity may be involved in symptoms such as fatigue, headache, muscle discomfort, skin rashes, depression, and anaemia. Some theories suggest that in some people, wheat disrupts the intestinal barrier, causing inflammation in many regions of the body.
So the decision to go gluten-free is not as simple as most people believe. There are hazards and obstacles associated with maintaining proper nutrition, and other dietary considerations should be considered before concluding that gluten is the cause of your symptoms. Gluten-free does not eliminate FODMAPS or wheat, which may be the real culprit for some people. You do not have to make this decision on your own. Consult a dietitian who specialises in gut health, as well as your doctor, for advice and help to get you started.