Gluten-Free Diet: Explained

Gluten-Free Diet: Explained

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in some grains, such as wheat, rye and barley. Gluten makes bread products chewy and gives them an elastic quality, so it is important to the making of baked goods.

Gluten is the only protein found in food that is completely indigestible. Its indestructible molecules can slip through the intestinal lining and cause inflammation in the intestines of people with celiac disease.

In healthy people, the inside of the small intestine is lined with finger-like projections called villi that help the body absorb nutrients. In people with celiac disease, gluten irritates the lining of the small intestine and also causes the immune system to attack the villi. Over time, the villi can be damaged or destroyed.

This often means that the body can no longer absorb enough nutrients from food. Nutrients pass through the digestive tract and are excreted with the body's waste, and the person can suffer malnutrition, according to WebMD. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, celiac disease affects about one in 141 people in the United States.

How does Gluten behave?

Gluten interferes with nutrient breakdown and absorption from foods, regardless if they have gluten or not. This leads to the formation of a glued-together constipating lump in the gut that can prevent proper digestion. Afterwards, the undigested gluten prompts the immune system to attack the lumps or the fine mesh like lining in our small intestine.

Gluten consumption can also predispose people to increased damage and inflammation to the small intestine, causing nutrient malabsorption, nutrient deficiencies, anemia, osteoporosis and other health problems.

A damaged gut then makes people susceptible to auto immune reactions or diseases in the longer run.

Where is Gluten found?

Foods like Wheat, Maida, Suji (Semolina) etc. Anything which contains wheat may have traces of gluten in it.

Major food habits of Indian include having three meals containing gluten in form of breakfast (Parathas, Porridge, Breads – whole-wheat or white), lunch (Rotis, Pasta, pancakes) or dinner (Rotis, Pasta) etc. Hence, we not only eat Gluten but our diets primarily comprise of gluten based diets. Even our evening snacks of samosa, mathiri, pav are all gluten based products.

What is Celiac disease?

Most people who need to avoid gluten have celiac disease, a chronic digestive disorder in which individuals who ingest gluten experience an immune response. There is no cure for celiac, though people who have it can manage the disease by following a gluten-free diet. People who get diagnosed with Celiac know the havoc that gluten causes to their bodies.

So, do we need to worry about Gluten then?

If we don’t have Celiac, it doesn’t mean that Gluten doesn’t play with our digestion. It simply implies that the effects on our digestion may not be sudden and extreme and here comes the importance of following a “Gluten Free” or “Gluten reduced diet”.

If we reduce most of the gluten based products, we minimize the effects and add solid nutrition to our bodies.

What can we eat to get to gluten free diet?

Naturally gluten-free: Rice, millets, quinoa, sorghum, flax and amaranth seed are naturally gluten-free grains.