Gluten is a protein naturally found in some grains, including barley, rye and wheat. The primary function of gluten is as a binder to help foods hold together by adding a “stretchy” quality – making it a vital ingredient for foods such as bread, pasta and pizza.
What are the benefits of gluten?
Gluten is an abundant ingredient in our food supply. However, a lot of negative media attention focusing on gluten sensitivity and coeliac disease has led some people to try and leave it out of their diet altogether. However, little (if any) research exists to support the claim that it can harm everyone.
Research published on 02 May 2017 entitled “Long term gluten consumption in adults without celiac disease and risk of coronary heart disease: a prospective cohort study” found no association between long-term dietary gluten consumption and heart-disease risk. The study also suggested that non-coeliac individuals who avoid gluten may increase their risk of heart disease due to the potential for reduced consumption of whole grains.
Other research has shown that gluten can act as a prebiotic, helping feed the “good” bacteria in our bodies. A prebiotic carbohydrate, arabinoxylan oligosaccharide, derived from wheat bran, is associated with the stimulation of the activity of bifidobacteria in the colon – usually found in a healthy human gut.
What are the negatives associated with gluten?
The main negative associated with gluten is that it can cause serious side effects in some people, especially those with coeliac disease. This is a condition where the body senses that gluten is a toxin, so the immune cells overreact and attack it.
Therefore, if someone is sensitive to gluten and doesn’t know it, they may increase inflammation in their body. Other side effects can include:
- alternative constipation and diarrhoea
- intestinal damage
- unintentional weight loss
Coeliac disease affects at least 1 in 100 people in the UK and Europe. However, approximately 500,000 people in the UK remain undiagnosed.
The primary treatment for coeliac disease is following a strict gluten-free diet – which can be challenging.
What is a gluten-free diet?
Following a gluten-free diet essentially means removing all foods that contain or may have been contaminated with gluten. However, gluten contains whole grains, fibre, and essential nutrients such as B Vitamins, Iron and Magnesium. So you must replace these missing nutrients if you follow a gluten-free diet.
You can do this by consuming foods that are naturally gluten-free in their complete form, such as:
How can I find out if I am gluten-sensitive?
If you often experience discomfort when consuming foods containing gluten, it is essential to find out more – you can do this by booking an appointment with your doctor or taking a lab test at home.
Test2Go offer a gluten sensitivity test that can be taken in the comfort of your own home. The results are ready to read within 15 minutes and can be uploaded and stored with our patient portal.