What Is Gluten Intolerance?

“Gluten” is the buzzword of the moment. In just the past few years, it’s popped up everywhere. In articles about celebrity diets, in bold print on food packaging, and on health information websites. And the vast majority of references to gluten are about gluten intolerance and why you should avoid it in your diet. But what is gluten intolerance and what are its symptoms?

gluten intolerance 300x199 What Is Gluten Intolerance? Photo

For those with gluten intolerance and celiac disease, these foods are off-limits.

First, let’s talk about gluten. Ever wonder what makes breads and cakes so spongy and chewy? It’s the protein compound gluten, which is found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Some people have gluten intolerance or gluten sensitivity, with symptoms like bloating, diarrhea, stomach cramps, and sometimes bone or joint pain. A more serious form of gluten intolerance is celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder. For people with celiac disease, eating foods that contain gluten causes their body to mount an immune response in the small intestine that results in inflammation, damage to the intestinal lining, weight loss, bloating, diarrhea, and malabsorption of nutrients. In time, the malabsorption will affect the brain, nervous system, bones, and organs.

People with gluten intolerance or celiac disease are advised to cut gluten from their diets. The following foods commonly contain gluten:

  • Pasta
  • Couscous
  • Bread
  • Flour Tortillas
  • Cookies
  • Cakes
  • Muffins
  • Pastries
  • Cereal
  • Crackers
  • Beer
  • Oats
  • Gravy
  • Dressings
  • Sauces

But why are gluten and gluten intolerance discussed more now than ever? Experts used to believe celiac disease affected only 1 in every 10,000 Americans, and had no idea it was possible to have a less severe form of sensitivity to gluten. Recent research, however, has shown that celiac disease is actually much more common than previously thought, affecting 1 in every 133 Americans. Thanks to increased awareness and testing, we now know this is a common problem.

Another reason for all the buzz about gluten is that people are now touting gluten-free diets as effective for weight loss and in treating other health conditions. While there’s no science to prove the weight loss claim, gluten-free diets have been shown to help some people with conditions like migraines, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Do you follow a gluten-free diet? Tell us how you feel about it below.

Sources: womenshealthmag.com, mayoclinic.com, wikipedia.org, and diabetes.org