Perhaps the most popular health trend on the planet at the moment is stripping gluten out of your diet. Instagrammers are all over this fad, offering photos of impossibly photogenic meals accompanied with captions containing gluten-free recipes. But, just because everyone is doing it doesn’t necessarily mean it is good.
We are going to delve into the pros and cons of a diet without gluten to see whether this bandwagon is worth jumping on or not. Of course, this will not be relevant to those that have to be gluten-free for medical reasons (e.g. because they are celiac). This article is for people that do not have a gluten intolerance and have chose to rid themselves of gluten voluntarily.
How Does Gluten Cause Trouble?
People with celiac disease are sensitive to gluten. Even eating one bite of bread can cause immeasurable trouble. What happens is that the gluten contained in the food triggers an immune response. This response damages the lining of the small intestine and can prevent food being absorbed properly. This can lead to nerve damage, infertility, osteoporosis and a whole range of other nasty symptoms.
There is also a condition called gluten sensitivity. This is different to celiac but will still produce unpleasant results in sufferers when they consume gluten.
How does a gluten-free diet affect people who are not sensitive to gluten?
The first thing you should know about a gluten-free diet is that it is expensive. But, if you have the money to burn then you should be able to handle it. So, let’s take a look at the health repercussions. There is currently very little evidence to suggest that people with a normal gluten tolerance will gain anything from eradicating it from their diet.
One big problem with going gluten-free is the lack of B vitamins you will consume. This is problematic for everyone, but especially so for pregnant women. Gluten-free diets can also result in a lack of fibre and while this can be found in other sources of food, it will require a conscious effort to make sure your fibre levels are adequate.
It has been claimed in the media that a gluten-free diet can reduce the risk of heart disease. However, this has been debunked by a team of scientists from Harvard, NYU and Colombia universities in the USA. These experts not only said that there is no correlation between a gluten-free diet by non-celiacs and a reduced risk of heart disease, but they stated that they do not recommend a gluten-free diet unless absolutely necessary.
Therefore, the answer to the question “is gluten bad?” is no. Gluten is only bad for those with a gluten intolerance. If you are able to eat gluten then doing so in moderation will contribute to a healthy diet.
If you decide to cut the gluten anyway then a word of warning: keep your dietary choice to yourself. People who cannot eat gluten find it a real hassle to completely transform their diet accordingly. It is expensive, pain-staking, and there is always a risk of serious harm if they get it wrong. They are also prevented from eating out with friends easily or going for a beer. With all this to deal with, the last thing they want to hear is someone raving about how great the diet is and how lucky they are. They certainly don’t feel lucky.