Read time: 5 Minutes
There’s no denying that going gluten free is one of the most popular health trends of recent years. Celebrities endorse it, there are gluten free cookbooks on the shelves and the gluten free aisles of supermarkets are getting bigger by the day.
According to research from Kantar, the UK Free From market is valued at £740m and grew by 27% in the last year. Within this, the Gluten Free market accounts for nearly 60% of the category and is valued at £438 million, increasing by 36% over 2015.
The benefits of going gluten free are claimed to be endless; from weight loss to aiding digestive issues. But is going gluten free actually good for you?
What exactly is gluten?
Gluten is a mixture of two proteins (glutenin and gliadin) present in cereal grains and is responsible for the elasticity in dough. Wheat is the most popular gluten-containing grain.
Why go gluten free?
People with digestive issues and disorders such as celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten. It’s an autoimmune disorder, where the body treats gluten like a foreign threat to the system. The immune system retaliates by attacking the gluten, but also the lining of the gut.
Celiac is thought to affect 1% of the population and the most common symptoms are bloating, digestive discomfort, abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, skin rashes and tissue damage in the small intestines.
There are also other people who have non celiac gluten sensitivity or a wheat intolerance who may benefit from a gluten free diet.
If only 1% of the population have celiac disease, why are so many people going gluten free?
Some health experts argue that gluten is harmful to most people and is not necessary in our diets. Some people who suffer from digestive issues assume that gluten is causing their pain and discomfort and will eliminate it from their diets as a result.
And, as most gluten free options are found in the health food aisles, there’s a general belief that these foods are better for you.
In addition, many celebrities and influencers endorse going gluten free, which has raised much greater awareness of the diet and established it as a trend.
However, despite the popularity, there is very little evidence to support the theory that going gluten free is beneficial to your health, if you do not have celiac disease or a gluten intolerance.
Is gluten free harmful if you don’t have celiac, a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten?
There is also very little evidence to suggest that going gluten free can be harmful for those who do not need to do so for medical reasons. But, that said, if you remove anything from your diet you risk nutritional deficiencies.
Some medical professionals argue that cutting gluten out of your diet can leave you lacking in many nutrients, such as iron, as going gluten free often means accepting an entirely new, restrictive diet.
While gluten itself doesn’t offer any nutritional benefits, many of the grains which contain gluten do. And, as gluten is contained in a very wide variety of foods, eliminating gluten can restrict your food options which may be harmful to your health.
How do I tell if I need to go gluten free?
Always seek advice from your doctor before eliminating anything from your diet and embarking on a gluten free lifestyle.
If you’re suffering from digestive issues and suspect it may be to do with your gluten intake first, talk to your doctor first and get tested for celiac, wheat intolerance or non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
Can I try going gluten free?
The bottom line is that gluten isn’t proven to be inherently bad but gluten free foods and a gluten free diet are also not proven to be inherently healthy.
If you embark on a gluten-free diet you may indeed note positive health benefits. It is likely that you will experience weight loss, as foods high in gluten tend to also be high in calories and sugars.
However, if you are going to make any significant change to your diet, you should not only carry out extensive research from reputable sources but also, always get advice from a professional.
What is your opinion on going gluten free? Let us know by using the hashtag #MyIrishLife on social media or by leaving a comment below.
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