Gluten-free diets have started to hit Malaysia, where more people are becoming more concerned about their health and have opted to ditch gluten. To understand why this is becoming a choice for some, one needs to know the culprit: the gluten itself!
What is gluten
To make it easier for people to understand, gluten comes from wheat flour. When wheat flour is mixed with water, a dough is formed. A dough that is washed under excess water will remove the starch and leave a rubbery substance. The rubbery substance is what we called as gluten.
Gluten is a very crucial part of creating texture in baked goods such as bread, and pizza and in fact, gluten exists in a wide range of foods. It has a stretchy quality and is the component responsible for the chewy texture of bread and other baked foods. Thus, it is a challenge when one decides to avoid gluten in their diet. Sometimes, you may occasionally encounter gluten in meals you wouldn't expect because it can be employed as a flavour and binding agent. Other than baked goods, gluten is also found in ice cream and soy sauce.
Gluten is usually associated with food that is high in carbohydrates, although that is not true. Going gluten-free doesn't mean you have to cut out all carbohydrates, as some people believe. Many foods high in carbohydrates, such as beans, rice, and potatoes, don't contain gluten.
Risk of Avoiding Gluten
Many people that avoid gluten usually have health-related reasons, however, for those who avoid gluten just for jumping on the hype and health fad, you might want to think twice. Food with glutens does contain lots of benefits, especially food that is high with wholegrain. Fibre, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients can be found in whole grains. Foods made from whole grains aid in maintaining healthy blood pressure, weight, and cholesterol levels. Additionally, these nutrients can reduce the chance of developing diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses. Thus, for those who avoid gluten, their diet might lack these kinds of beneficial nutrients.
Other than that, some people have reported withdrawal symptoms such as feeling dizziness, nausea, cravings, constipation and much more. These symptoms can last from weeks to months after starting a gluten-free diet. Thus, it is recommended for people without gluten sensitivity to continue to consume food that contains gluten.
Who Should Avoid Gluten
Celiac disease is a disease that could cause the body to react when eating gluten. When a person with celiac disease consumes gluten, their body overreacts to the protein. It harms their villi, which are tiny projections that resemble fingers and are found along the small intestine's wall. When the villi are harmed, nutrient absorption will be affected. Your small intestine cannot adequately absorb nutrients from meals if your villi are damaged. This may eventually result in malnutrition and other nutrition-related disorder (1).
People with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is prone to the leaky gut problem. Intestinal hyperpermeability, often known as leaky gut, is a condition in which the intestinal wall's tight junctions become permeable, allowing dangerous chemicals to enter the bloodstream. When people with ASD eat gluten, it will enter the bloodstream and spread to the brain causing the autism symptom to worsen (2).
Gluten sensitivity, which is also called Nonceliac gluten sensitivity happened to people that could not consume gluten. Gluten sensitivity is not the same as celiac disease as the important characteristic of celiac disease which is damaged gut lining, is typically absent in people with gluten sensitivity. When a person has gluten sensitivity, their immune system wrongly views the proteins in gluten as foreign invaders and begins to attack them. This might cause the person to exert mild symptoms for a short time such as abdominal pain, bloating and stomach ache (3).
Foods to Avoid in Gluten-Free Diet
People who should avoid gluten need to know what types of foods they should avoid:
Written by: Alia Adrina Asri
BSc (Hons) Nutrition
Love Earth Nutritionist