Have you heard, at one point in your lifetime, that gluten is bad for you? Or that you should avoid it at all costs because it causes leaky gut and you’re probably going to die if you gluten? Have you tried cutting out gluten because you believe it is “healthier” for you?
I sense the answer is yes. We have all heard many times in the last few years. This gluten free fad has exploded and become such a popular diet trend!
So today, let’s talk about what is gluten ACTUALLY IS, find out if it’s bad for our health and discover where this all came from
First, let’s clarify that gluten is a PROTEIN. It is NOT a CARB. It is found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley. So, it’s found in foods that are considered a source of carbohydrates, however gluten itself is not a carbohydrate.
Make sure you remember that.
Gluten is composed of 2 types of protein, Gliadin and Glutenin. These two proteins bind together to form a network that that supports certain fluffy and light textures when baking. It creates these nice bonds in the dough to support the density of baked goods, such as bread and helps it rise!
It is not.
For most humans, gluten has shown to have no adverse effects on our health. Now based on a 2003 study, approximately 1% of the population has celiac disease, in which case, gluten IS bad for THEM.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune dysfunction that is triggered when this person eats gluten. Their immune system goes on high alert because it perceives gluten as a huge threat! This autoimmune response results in damage in their gut lining, which can affect how their body absorbs other essential nutrients. They risk having nutrient deficiencies, malnutrition and other adverse health effects.
People with celiac disease are diagnosed by performing specific blood tests and a biopsy to confirm that this is truly the case. It’s important not to self-diagnose as this is a very serious disease! If you suspect you might have celiac disease, please speak to your doctor to guide you on how to confirm this diagnosis. A lot of people will stop eating gluten to see if it helps their symptoms, and then seek a diagnosis. But the issue with that is, if you do have celiac, your gut will begin to heal as you remove gluten from your diet. So, if you remove gluten and you go for a test, the test will come back negative because your gut has already healed and it’s not showing any damage!
So needless to say, gluten is very dangerous for someone who is diagnosed with celiac disease and they should avoid gluten (even via cross contamination) at all cost.
☞ If you are someone who is newly diagnosed with celiac disease, make sure to meet with a registered dietitian to ensure you are nourishing your body adequately and to receive proper education on how to avoid gluten and manage this condition!
A sensitivity is when there is not autoimmune response, meaning your immune system does not react do this nutrient/product and perceive it as a threat.
Someone with a sensitivity might experience other symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation or bloating, that can be secondary to eating gluten. These unpleasant symptoms may mean that you’ll want to limit the amount of gluten you eat.
A sensitivity is very hard to diagnose because there are no formal tests to confirm sensitives. Your body doesn’t produce any biomarker (signal buttons) by your immune system to say something is not right. Essentially, if you don’t test positive for celiac but continue to show a level of intolerance to foods that contain gluten, the likelihood of you having a sensitivity are higher. In fact, about 5-10% of the population show to have a gluten sensitivity.
Indeed, just like any other nutrition recommendation that advises the general public to avoid/get rid of a nutrient or food, is rooted in diet culture. It is a business and companies profit off of this!
In the year 2000, this is when gluten started to be vilified and was turned into some sort of fad diet. In fact, by 2013, the Gluten Free Industry grew to 10.5 billion dollars!
For most people, you don’t need to go gluten free. According to a US study, 30% of people are choosing to eat gluten free when only about 10% of them really require this lifestyle.
These products are so much more expensive, and you are spending money on something that is not beneficial for you. In fact, gluten free products have less of certain nutrients, such as B vitamins and fibre because of the fact that they had to remove the gluten. Most Canadians and Americans don’t consume enough fibre, so if you are switching to gluten free products because you feel it’s sold as. “healthier”, you are risking losing out on other essential nutrients. The long term effects of this can be dangerous.
You are not “healthier” by removing gluten. It does not support any improved health outcomes unless you are celiac! It can help ease some of the uncomfortable side effects of gluten to those who have a sensitivity, but overall, you do not need to avoid it.
Diet Culture is a 72-billion-dollar industry that profits off of fear mongering tactics. These claims are not supported by an adequate amount of science, so until actually proven otherwise, continue to enjoy gluten as it is safe, beneficial and delicious!
Check out my FREE Class to learn more about my Guilt Free Method so that you can find food freedom and feel good in your body.
Check out my solo podcast episode “Food Myths Debunked: Gluten” where I break down what gluten is, what it is not and debunk common misconceptions! Click the links below to listen:
The Balanced Practice is a team of professionals specialized in eating disorder outpatient treatment, disordered eating. Our mission is to help as many folks heal their relationship with food and their bodies so they can live happily outside of diet culture!
We strive to provide evidence based nutrition counselling to support you, or your loved one, in achieving full recovery. Schedule a connection call now.
Marie-Pier Pitre-D’Iorio, RD, B.Sc.Psychology
Lead Registered Dietitian and Founder of The Balanced Practice