People - including myself - love wheat-based foods. And why wouldn’t we? Foods like these include bread, cereal and pasta (yum!)
But have you ever had any of these foods and experienced symptoms like tummy-aches or bloating? If you have, you’re not alone. There is a rise in the number of people who experience side-effects from gluten-bases allergies (or celiac disease), and other autoimmune conditions.
So, why is this bad-boy of the food world causing so much trouble? And how did the trouble begin? Let’s take a bite out of this topic and explore why you should pay attention to gluten-based foods.
What is gluten?
To be fair, I don’t think gluten is bad. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye based foods like bread, cereal and pasta. It’s a binding agent that helps give wheat foods elasticity, shape, and chewy texture.
Its function in plants is to help store nutrients for reproduction to help nurture and grow the next generation of plants. See? It’s not bad at all.
More recent developments in agriculture, however, have made wheat-based plants stronger and more resilient to adverse conditions, altering the makeup and role of gluten. This mutation, happening faster than mother nature intended, has made gluten a tough cookie to swallow for many people.
Why should gluten be on your food radar?
There are two main types of gluten-intolerance that can be found in people: wheat allergies, also called Celiac disease, and non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.
Symptoms from gluten-intolerance can be minor, such as bloating or constipation, or much more severe, such as headaches, mood disorders, brain-fog, and even depression. For people living with Celiac disease - approximately 1% of the population - the body's reactions to eating gluten can be especially severe and can cause damage to the lining of the small intestine.
Even people who don’t suffer from wheat allergies or celiac disease can still experience symptoms after consuming foods containing gluten. Around 12% of the population have reported digestive symptoms after eating foods with gluten.
What’s more, gluten sensitivity symptoms may appear two days after your consumption of gluten, so without a complete elimination or food sensitivity testing, it is almost impossible to correlate if your symptoms are related to gluten you’ve eaten.
Why is gluten insensitivity becoming more and more common?
We’ve already mentioned one reason gluten intolerance is becoming more and more common, but there are other factors contributing to this occurrence as well.
Here’s some other causes contributing to the rise in gluten intolerance:
The rise in use of antibiotics - another modern advancement - has damaged natural gut flora or dysbiosis, weakening our body’s natural ability to absorb and process gluten. Our immune system may then see the undigested gluten particles as microbial invaders and attack them.
According to some scientists, a cleaner and more sterile environment over the past 50 years has knocked our natural defense antibodies off-track. This has led to an overreaction on our body’s behalf to foods that should be harmless (think wheat and peanut allergies).
Our fascination with diets and fads has led to vitamin deficient people. Diet’s interfere with the body’s natural processes, leading to a suppression of our immune system.
Diseases are a combination of genetics and environmental factors and such is the case with gluten-intolerance. Some people are much more prone to this than others.