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HomeMedical Information Quality MedicineShould You Be Going Gluten-Free?

Should You Be Going Gluten-Free?

8/25/2018 | By: Medix Team

Over the past decade, the prevalence of gluten-related diseases has been on the rise, with more and more individuals opting for gluten-free diets (GFD) as a way to manage medical disorders. It has also become very popular with non-sufferers as many perceive it to be a healthier alternative to traditional gluten diets. However the fundamental reason for following a gluten-free diet has become diluted and to a certain degree misunderstood. Understanding the function of gluten and the purpose a GFD is imperative in maintaining a healthy dietary plan.

Gluten is a generic term for storage proteins found in the endosperm of grain seeds, giving it its stretchy and malleable quality. Gluten is present in wheat, barley, rye, triticale, a grain that contains both rye and wheat traits, and is also widely contained in processed foods to add flavor and improve texture. Gluten also contains vital vitamins, minerals and nutrients needed to help the body function optimally.

 

In a healthy gastric system, enzymes digest the proteins, transforming them into groups of amino acids known as peptides. Most of these peptides continue to degrade further until they are absorbed through the intestines into the blood stream for use in the body. However, in some cases, gluten cannot be digested by the enzymes as the protein portion present creates toxic peptides during the process of digestion resulting in an aggressive immune response in the gut. This reaction is most common in individuals suffering from Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity, wheat allergies and other gastrointestinal medical conditions.

 

The main purpose of following a gluten-free diet is to curb the signs and symptoms associated with these medical disorders and actively starting a gluten-free eating plan must be treated with caution. Such a decision requires the appropriate screening to be conducted first in order to achieve an informed diagnosis if it is to be beneficial to the individual. Distinguishing the difference between Celiac Disease, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity and wheat allergies are fundamental for long-term therapy and nutritional gain.

  • Celiac Disease (CD) occurs in an estimated 1% of the population worldwide and is a characterized as a multisystem immune-based disorder or inherited auto-immune disease that affects the lining of the small intestine and gastric system. It is triggered by the ingestion of gluten-containing food substances and if not treated properly the disease can cause damage to the gastrointestinal (GI) tract resulting in the malabsorption of nutrients from food. Clinical features are diverse with over 200 identified symptoms known, from anemia, cramping, diarrhea, and constipation, to fatigue, headaches, joint pain, osteoporosis, stunted growth and infertility. Currently, non-dietary therapies are being researched however at this time the best form of treatment for CD sufferers is to follow a strict gluten-free diet.
  • Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS) possesses many of the symptoms associated with CD, however, damage to the tissues of the small intestine is not present. Studies conducted on NCGS patients suggest that it may be a transient disorder with the immune system playing a role in the disease. However, the process isn't well-defined and therefore NCGS sufferers are recommended to follow a GFD for a specific duration of time before testing for gluten tolerance again.
  • Wheat allergy symptoms are far different from CD and NCGS as it presents like other food allergies. Symptoms include itching, hives, congestion, breathing difficulties and possibly anaphylaxis in severe cases, as a result of the immune system identifying gluten in the wheat as a virus or disease-causing factor. The most effective treatment for wheat allergy is to remove all forms of wheat gluten from the sufferer's diet however other sources of gluten are permissible.

Following a gluten-free diet is a life-long commitment for CD and NCGS sufferers and possibly those with wheat allergies. It requires careful attention to the ingredients of foods as well as their nutritional content in order to maintain a healthy diet. Currently, there is no clinical evidence to support the benefits of a gluten-free diet for non-sufferers as a contributing factor in a healthy lifestyle. However, in general, it is important to pay attention to the nutritional value, salt, and sugar content as well as calorie count in foods irrespective of gluten disorders. Medix recommends that you speak to a doctor or healthcare professional before committing to a gluten-free diet.

 

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