Gluten-free options are taking over the grocery shelves just as fast as dairy is on its way out of business. Yup, I dare to claim that animal milk doesn’t have that much time left in the consumer world. Especially not with Oatly being such a baller in the industry. You’ve got to love Oatly. Even if you don’t like their products you have to admit that their marketing makes you giggle? But, this blog post isn’t about dairy or my strong love for Oatly’s marketing, this is about gluten, and the intolerance most of us all of a sudden seem to have. Is gluten intolerance a trend, is it real, is it just another mystical creature from Harry Potter? Let’s find out.
What is gluten?
First of all, let’s break down what gluten is. Gluten is a combination of proteins found in grains. Primarily in wheat, rye, and barley. The two main proteins found in gluten is called glutenin and gliadin. You know when you bake bread the dough gets that elastic texture? It’s the gluten who is responsible for that. It’s basically the glue holding the dough together, and gives bread it’s crispy texture when baked. Fun fact, the name gluten actually comes from the way it acts as a glue when mixed together with water. Doesn’t sound that pleasing, right? So, basically what happens when you eat gluten is that it becomes a glue-like texture in your small intestine. Some people don’t have a problem with this at all, while others experience major symptoms and discomfort.
The different stages of gluten intolerance
How does one know if they can go crazy on the breadbasket, or if you should lay low? Well, if you do have a gluten intolerance, trust me, you’d know. The severity of gluten intolerance comes in different stages, which is why it can be hard to point out gluten as the culprit if you’re experiencing milder symptoms.
Celiac disease is the most extreme gluten condition. This is an autoimmune disease which means that the body attacks the gluten as soon as it enters the small intestine. Since it’s an autoimmune disease the body pretty much attacks itself to get rid of this foreign invader. Our gut basically turns into a war zone. This self-attack can lead to poor nutrition uptake, anemia, extreme fatigue, joint pain, digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, or both! Like one of them wasn’t bad enough… Since this is specifically targeting our gut, it can also lead to depression and anxiety. If you want to read more about the gut-brain connection, click here.
For people who suffer from celiac disease, even the tiniest portion of gluten will cause this havoc. It’s so severe that people who suffer from celiac disease might need bed rest for a couple of days if they accidentally eat gluten. In a world where “gluten-free” has become another health trend, it’s important to recognize that this is a life-affecting condition for some people.
Wheat, white flour, baguettes, pasta pizza crusts, you know all those yummy stuff. Well, this bad boy contains a lot of gluten, and unfortunately, it can cause wheat allergies in some people. As the allergy itself explains, it’s only wheat products that mess up the gut for these people. In extreme cases, people can get trouble breathing after eating wheat as well, but this is more common in small, tiny ass people, also called children. The symptoms of wheat allergy are very similar to celiac, but not as extreme. It causes digestive issues, malnutrition, fatigue, and lower mood. Wheat though is a sneaky little fella, and he can be found in more products than we might think! Cereals, soy, bulgur, some meat substitutes, salad dressing, and some candies. If you know you have a gluten sensitivity, you have to become the food label reading police.
Non-celiac gluten sensitivity
This is the “mildest” condition of gluten intolerance, still not pleasant though! If you feel symptoms like digestive issues, joint pain, and fatigue after eating gluten, but not as severe as in celiac disease or wheat allergy, you might have non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This is usually caused by eating products with pure gluten, such as white bread and pasta. Dipping your sushi in soy sauce doesn’t really affect you. Since it can be hard to know for sure that it’s the gluten causing these discomforts, the best thing is to go to Mr. Doctor and let him do his thing. By doing his thing, I mean an ordinary check-up…
The best way to know just how severe (if any at all) your intolerance is is to, once again, go get that shit checked up at the doctor. A simple blood test and you’ll know what’s up. Here I am talking about blood tests like they don’t actually scare the shit out of me… but that’s a completely different story!
Are humans made to eat gluten?
So now you might wonder, if gluten can cause this many problems in some people, are humans even supposed to eat gluten at all!? The answer is, yes – assuming that you don’t have any of the above issues. Wheat is actually healthy for people without intolerances, and including gluten-containing products in your diet may lower your risk for heart attacks and strokes.
Now you’re probably thinking, hold up there, Lil mama, how can white bread be healthy? Well, I’m not telling you to ball out and only eat white bread and pasta, but wheat provide us with a lot of the crucial B vitamins including folate (B9), niacin (B3), thiamin (B1), and vitamin B6, also known as pyridoxine, but that’s just a mouth full nobody has time to pronounce. Besides these B vitamins, wheat also packs some iron, selenium, manganese, and copper. Of course, refined wheat, the process of making white flour by stripping the wheat grain of its germ and bran, which is where the majority of these nutrients sits, isn’t as healthy as unrefined wheat. So yes, I’m sorry if I hyped you up, making you believe that white bread is a top-notch health food.
The bottom line, the gluten-free health trend is just, a trend for people who actually manage gluten products fine, and to avoid these products may actually cause more harm than good. Don’t just jump on another health trend, be smart, do some research, make DJ Khaled proud, eat a few slices of pita bread with that Lebanese food, because, ooh child, that shit’s amazing!