Is Gluten Bad for Everyone?

Every month on Kitchen Stories, we’ll be putting our food knowledge under the microscope to find out if what we think we know is really true. Have a food-related case that you want cracked open? Leave a comment underneath the article!

Low-fat and protein-rich diets were yesterday! The new trend is gluten-free eating. But, is it only an invention of the food industry or is there really something meaningful behind the renouncement of gluten? Is gluten really bad for your body? Let's find out!

What Exactly Is Gluten?

Gluten has an important storage function in the seed of germinating cereal plants. It is a complex, but not fully explored, protein mixture that provides the growing plant with important amino acids and proteins.

Gluten is not only found in wheat, but also in spelt, barley, and rye. Gluten is essential for baking, as it makes the dough elastic and thus provides fluffy, light pastries. We also can find gluten as a thickener, gelling agent, and stabilizer in many other products on the supermarket shelf.

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Is Gluten Bad for Everyone?

Avoiding gluten allegedly makes us slimmer, fitter, and gives us more energy. Gluten-free food has become a billion-dollar business, and new products are added every month. The book Wheat Belly was on the bestseller list for months. It denounces gluten as the scourge of mankind, and author William Davis not only attributes obesity and diabetes to gluten, but also cancer and cardiovascular diseases. We are similarly addicted to cigarettes and drugs, according to his accusation.

But Where Do These Assertions Come From?

Wheat flour contains gluten and mainly consists of starch. It is made of long glucose chains, which are decomposed into individual sugar molecules in the human body. This sugar makes our blood sugar rise and provides us with energy. Our brain craves for this kind of energy because it increases our intellectual power, but unfortunately also improves our fat stores.

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Gluten is at the root of celiac disease, which causes chronic inflammation of the small intestine in affected humans when gluten is consumed. Gluten intolerance is often associated with nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, diarrhea, and anemia. That’s the reason why it’s so difficult to diagnose the disease and leads, in many cases, to premature false diagnosis. For even more frequently occurring diseases, like irritable bowel syndrome, patients complain about these and similar symptoms.

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If celiac disease is diagnosed, the only thing that helps is a lifelong renunciation of all gluten-containing foods. In fact, only 0.1 - 1% of the population suffer from this autoimmune disease. The probability of belonging to those affected is therefore very low.

If you still suffer from the aforementioned symptoms, gluten sensitivity is not unlikely. Researchers trace it back to the increased use of gluten in food production. The wheat protein is found in many light products such as curd or yogurt, but also in Seitan based meat substitutes. So, we take in more gluten with our daily diet than our grandparents. However, our bodies cannot adapt themselves to this increased intake that quickly, and for sensitive people, it responds with a rumbling belly and diarrhea.

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The Verdict

Gluten is not naturally bad for us; it's an important energy supplier for our body. However, if you are suffering from an intolerance or hypersensitivity, a renouncement of gluten-containing foods can indeed improve your quality of life.

If you are not affected, a strict renunciation of gluten does not make sense. Pay attention to a balanced diet and go for whole grain products instead of refined flour products, which contain more fiber and reduce the feeling of hunger.

Do you suffer from gluten intolerance or for other reasons do not consume gluten? Or do you think the gluten-free trend is nonsense? Tell us your opinion in the comments!