Is gluten bad for you? A gut health specialist on the time to cut it
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A qualified expert shares his point of view.
If you google “is gluten bad for you?” chances are you’ve read somewhere online that it’s not the best for your gut lining, your skin, your digestion, etc. Gluten-free foods are everywhere these days – it’s as easy to buy standard pasta at your local supermarket as it is a (normally more expensive) gluten-free alternative.
But, question: Are any of these statements based and rooted in science, and is the GF aisle the place to be, or are they best left to those with a diagnosed intolerance or disease like celiac disease (where your body can’t process gluten?)
First, a little definition for you. Gluten is a protein found in wheat (durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, small spelled), rye, barley and triticale. Essentially, protein helps food hold its shape, acting like a glue that holds food together.
“Only a handful of foods have as bad a reputation as gluten,” shares Marilla Chamonnutritionist, gut health specialist and founder of Nutrition Gutiality. “But what is the reason behind this? Is it really that bad for you and should you avoid it? »
She answers all that and more in the article below. Keep scrolling for her expertise, and don’t miss our roundup of what to eat after a workout, vegan protein sources, best protein powders for women, while you’re here. .
Is gluten bad for you?
Short answer: No food is “bad,” but you may not be able to personally deal with gluten. In this case – i.e. celiac or intolerance, both of which you should consult a professional to establish – it is best avoided.
One of the reasons gluten has made headlines in recent years, according to the Chamon, is that studies have shown that gluten triggers the release of a protein called zonulin. “This is responsible for regulating the tight junctions in the gut, which in turn control what passes through the gut wall – in other words, how ‘leaky’ your gut is,” she shares.
“Leaky gut is problematic because your gut is an essential defense mechanism to protect us from harmful bacteria and toxins,” she continues.
In general, gluten has often been bypassed in the past because it has the potential to cause inflammation. “Other studies have looked at a link between leaky gut and chronic health conditions, particularly autoimmune diseases,” Chamon shares. Research has found that having a leaky gut can contribute to everything from over-activation of the immune system to chronic inflammation.
“From that point on, gluten-free diets grabbed the headlines and became the go-to diet for those looking to reduce their inflammatory response,” she explains.
It is important to note here that, having said that, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to nutrition and, indeed, gluten. There is nothing inherently wrong with gluten and the majority of people eat it daily without suffering any adverse side effects. It’s in many of the foods we eat – bread, pasta, cereals and more.
That being said, going gluten-free is an absolute must for people with celiac disease, shares Chamon. “Contrary to popular belief, becoming gluten-free is not a food allergy or intolerance, but a serious autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues when gluten is ingested,” he shares. she. “This consequently damages the lining of the small intestine where nutrients are absorbed.”
You should also consider going gluten-free if you have a wheat allergy or gluten intolerance.
Symptoms of sensitivity include:
If you experience any of the above problems, consult a physician or qualified professional.
Benefits of eating gluten-free
1. Grains are heavily processed
Did you know? Cereals such as wheat are unfortunately among the crops most affected by the use of pesticides such as glyphosate, shares the expert. “A recent paper argued that glyphosate may be a key contributor to several diseases and conditions, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, infertility, depression, and cancer,” she explains. .
2. Gluten can trigger digestive symptoms
As above, it can be a trigger for digestive symptoms such as bloating and diarrhea. “It even happens in people who don’t have a diagnosis of celiac disease,” the expert shares. “The gluten-free diet has become popular, particularly among people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as their symptoms seem to improve on a gluten-free diet.”
Be careful though: this is completely unique to each individual.
Disadvantages of eating gluten-free
1. You may be blaming the wrong culprit
“Although they are often blamed for causing digestive symptoms, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of people with self-reported non-celiac gluten sensitivity found that fructans – a type of fermentable carbohydrate found in wheat – were the cause of gastrointestinal symptoms in people with IBS, not gluten,” explains the nutritionist.
2. You may be lacking in fiber
Fun fact: Wheat is a source of prebiotic fiber, which is the primary food source for our beneficial gut bacteria.
“A gluten-free diet can have a negative impact on the composition of our gut microbiota because it lacks prebiotic fiber compared to a diet where wheat is present,” shares the pro. “A recent study demonstrated that following a gluten-free diet decreases the number of beneficial gut bacteria such as Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus.”
At the end of the line ?
It’s entirely up to you and your body type, but there’s nothing inherently “bad” about gluten, and you should definitely never avoid any food groups just for the sake of it. “Right now, we’re a long way from knowing the true role of gluten in chronic diseases, but it’s probably not gluten consumption alone that will lead to their development,” says Chamon.
For those without a diagnosis of celiac disease or wheat allergy, it may be helpful to consult a qualified nutritionist before embarking on a gluten-free diet.