6 Things You Must Know About Gluten

Written by Dr. Joseph Mercola

Gluten is a mixture of two proteins present in wheat and cereal grains that, for some people, may cause digestive problems when the large intestine fails to break down the gluten into amino acids. Lotus Meals explains that when these non-broken down pieces of gluten enter the small intestine, they are too large for nutrient receptors to absorb them — which then can cause a variety of negative health effects.

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Today, going gluten-free has become a near-fad that many people embrace whether or not they know for certain that they are gluten sensitive. So how can you tell if avoiding gluten is something that may benefit you? Here are six things to know about gluten, and whether a gluten-free diet might be good for you:

1. Gluten is a protein made up of glutenin and gliadin molecules, which in the presence of water form an elastic bond. Gluten can be found in grains other than wheat, including rye, barley, oats and spelt.

Gluten can also hide in processed foods under a variety of names, including but not limited to malts, starches, hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), texturized vegetable protein (TVP) and natural flavoring.

2. A major caveat linked to gluten is its tendency to impede proper nutrient breakdown and absorption from foods, regardless if they have gluten or not. This may prevent proper digestion because excess gluten leads to the formation of a glued-together constipating lump in the gut. Excessive gluten consumption and further small intestine damage and inflammation may predispose a person to nutrient malabsorption, nutrient deficiencies, anemia, osteoporosis, other neurological or psychological diseases, and complications linked to the skin, liver, joints, nervous system and more.

3. Gluten products include white and whole-wheat flour, graham flour, wheat germ, wheat bran, pasta, couscous, flour tortillas, cereal, crackers, beer, processed broth and bouillon cubes and many other foods including fried products and processed lunch meats.

4. Besides bloating, belly pain, diarrhea, tiredness and a general feeling of unwellness, warning signs of gluten intolerance include:

  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety
  • Numbness
  • Nausea

5. Because there is no specific laboratory test for gluten sensitivity, your physician will have to rule out other possible causes. In some cases, patients may need to be checked for wheat allergy or celiac disease. Should test results be negative, a gluten-free diet may be advised.

6. A gluten-free diet is an important course of action for combating gluten-related disorders, and picking gluten-free foods is the first step in doing so. Because there are foods that are incorrectly labeled “gluten-free,” it may be quite tricky at first to select the correct items.

Some of the best foods for a gluten-free diet include beans sprouts, seeds (chia, pumpkin or sunflower), nuts pecans, macademias or walnuts), organic and pasture-raised eggs, organic and grass fed meats that aren’t breaded, fish (wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies and herring that aren’t breaded, batter-coated or marinated), organically grown, GMO-free fruits and vegetables and healthy fat sources such as grass fed butter, coconut oil, olives and avocados.

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