The Gluten Free Diet | Is Gluten Bad For You?

Is gluten all bad for everyone?

You’d think the word ‘gluten’ means all things bad the way it is mentioned in such extreme terms of health risks. But is it as bad as you may have been led to believe. The answer is, well… maybe.

What is gluten and why is it an issue for some people?

There is a debate going on that has one half saying gluten is okay for everyone except people with celiac disease, while the other half say it is a risk full-stop.

Gluten is a group of proteins, the two main ones being glutenin and gliadin. It is found in wheat, rye, spelt and barley grains. The word ‘gluten’ comes from the glue-like texture of wet dough; this is because when flour is mixed with water, the gluten proteins form a sticky network.

For people with celiac disease, their severe intolerance means consuming gluten can result in nutritional deficiencies, anaemia and intense digestive concerns. Symptoms include digestive discomfort, tissue damage in the small intestines, bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, headaches, tiredness, skin rashes, and weight loss.

It’s possible to experience these symptoms with other forms of gluten intolerance.

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The following are common sources of gluten:

  • Wheat
  • Spelt
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Cereals
  • Beer
  • Cakes, cookies and pastries
  • It’s also used as an ingredient in many commercial products.

gluten free

Is it essential to avoid gluten?

Scientists at Harvard University have said that there is an increased risk of developing diabetes for those who cut gluten out of their diet.

There is little evidence to suggest reducing gluten consumption provides long-term health benefits, except for those with conditions, yet the research suggests there is a 13 percent higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes than those with higher levels of gluten. The study was based on 30 years of medical data from nearly 200,000 patients. The presentation reported that those subjects who ate the most gluten had the lowest risk of type 2 diabetes upon follow-up.

The issue is that wheat problems are restricted to people with celiac disease. Many people may develop gluten intolerances.

A common concern can be inflammation. This is because the proteins in wheat are irritants for your guts. Amylase trypsin inhibitors can provoke an inflammatory immune response by stimulating immune cells. This can happen to anyone, whether they have celiac disease or not. This inflammation can add to intestinal permeability, also known as ‘leaky gut’ as more flow is allowed through the gut walls than usual.

Because the gut is more permeable this means gluten is able to get into your bloodstream, which can affect your immune system. For anyone wanting to cut gluten in order to lose weight, you may be barking up the wrong tree. One study found that the average gluten-free diet had more calories, protein, saturated fatty acids, and often sugar.

Our articles should be used for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to be taken as medical advice. If you’re concerned, consult a health professional before taking dietary supplements or introducing any major changes to your diet.

Faye Reid

Faye Reid

Writer and expert

Faye Reid has a Bachelor of Science in Sport and Exercise Physiology and a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and Sports Nutrition. Faye has worked with numerous high-profile organisations, such as Men's Health, Sky Sports, Huddersfield Giants, Warrington Wolves, British Dressage and GB Rowing, providing her expert sports science support. Find out more about Faye's experience here: She puts her passion into practice as goal attack for her netball team, and in competitive event riding.

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