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Should I Be Eating Gluten? – The Facts

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Should I Be Eating Gluten?

It feels as though we are constantly being bombarded with differing opinions about how/when/what we should be eating and in most cases, the information is coming from biased (i.e. someone is trying to sell you something) or from unqualified sources. Sure, freedom of speech is great and putting out your opinions is what the internet is for. But, when it comes to your health, that starts to get dangerous.

A big one I see around the internet and get asked about is what is and should I be eating Gluten? Well, I say; let’s start with the science. And let’s stick to that.

Firstly, what on earth even is gluten?

I recently saw a pretty amusing video of people who don’t eat gluten being asked what it is – most of them had no idea. So let’s start there. Gluten is made of proteins and is present in wheat, one of these proteins is called gliaden – remember that for later. It’s what gives your bagel that nice elastic texture and why sometimes, gluten free stuff can be a little flat (read: cardboard) in texture.

Next, is gluten ‘bad for me?’

Well, for people with Coeliac disease, gluten absolutely is ‘bad’ for them in that it is harmful to their gut. When someone with coeliac consumes  gluten, their body will attack the gluten and their own gut lining and small intestine right along with it. Unmanaged, coeliac disease can lead to some pretty severe digestive discomfort, headaches and even depression.

Now, on to those of us who do not have Coeliac disease; is gluten bad for us, too?

The answer to that isn’t quite so clear cut. Some people have a gluten sensitivity and although their response isn’t typically as severe as that as someone with Coeliac and the small intestine is typically unaffected, however, they can still feel sluggish and have headaches.

Why is that?

Zonulin is a protein which works to open up the space between the gut cells and the intestinal wall so nutrients can get absorbed. When everything is working perfectly in the gut, this is totally fine. However, for a large amount of us who don’t have perfect gut integrity (aka. antibiotic history, alcohol consumption) high amounts of zonulin are present, so we end up with a bit too much space between the gut and the intestine cells – this is called leaky gut or increase intestinal permeability.

What does that have to do with gluten?

Remember that protein gliaden I said was in gluten? Regardless of whether you have Coeliac disease or not, when gliaden is present,  zonulin starts to get released; opening up that gap more between the gut and the intestinal cells. Basically, what this means is that each time we eat gluten, we get a little ‘leakier’

Right okay, so I guess that means I shouldn’t eat gluten, right?

Not necessarily. The body is a pretty incredible thing and has mechanisms in place to keep things in the gut up to scratch, including your gut integrity. Outside of having a gluten sensitivity or coeliac disease, it is okay to have wholewheat products as part of the equation in your diet.

The key is like anything with our diets; a little of everything. Since any time we eat gluten we get a little ‘leakier’ a couple of consecutive days or even one day of opting for gluten free grains (amaranth, buckwheat, rice (brown, white, wild), millet, quinoa)  to give our gut a bit of a rest is a balanced, maintainable way to go about things. So, go forth and enough your bagel with (balanced) abandon.

 

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Should I Be Eating Gluten

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