Should You Really Be Avoiding Gluten? Here’s the Answer
First things first, what is gluten?
Well, gluten, in a scientific sense, is what gives stability or form to baked products like bread, cakes, sauces and such. It is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
You’ve probably heard that gluten affects our digestive system, causes allergic reactions, weight gain, and a few other health concerns that may or may not be serious. While the allergic reaction could be possible, other illnesses that are said to be related to gluten intake may not necessarily be true.
However, from a personal point of view, Dahlia Conde, Chef of Artemis Artisanal Food, who has gone gluten-free for years already, swears by the gluten-free diet that changed her life.
Photo by Jamie Matocinos from Unsplash
You see, Dahlia had a prolonged asthma episode that no amount of medicine, inhalers and nebulizers, was able to cure. In an interview with her, she shared that her condition led her to sleepless nights that affected her active lifestyle. After deciding to refuse to take the steroids her doctor prescribed, Dahlia went on her own to find out ways to cure her troubled days. It didn’t take long before she discovered the elimination/Paleo diet she has been doing for four and a half years now.
“I eliminated gluten and also processed food, legumes, refined sugar, soda, etc. This wasn’t easy for me because I made a living as a chef, But I was desperate to get well. After a few months, I noticed that my asthma was gone, I started to sleep better, and I started losing weight too!” shared Dahlia. Going gluten-free or trying out the Paleo diet, can benefit everyone,” shared Dahlia.
Juana Manahan-Yupangco, founder of Mesa Ni Misis—the movement that promotes healthy and sustainable food sources for the general public—recently found out that she has a rare disease that is gluten-related. Juana had an unexplainable cough, mouth sores, and stomach ache for a year before she decided to consult a doctor. That’s when she found out that she has Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disease that targets the colon and causes gut damage. Anyone who has it experiences unexplainable stomach ache, mouth sores, headache and such. Their colons cannot process gluten, causing it to create lesions around the stomach, thus the stomach cramps.
Allergist Dr. Xandy Ortigas of St. Luke’s Global City and Quezon City weighed in on the matter and explained what gluten does to our body.
Primarily, gluten is not as evil as we think it is. In fact, it’s one of the main sources of our daily protein needs. If we stop taking any product that has gluten in it, that means we may deprive our body from getting enough nutrients.
Beef and Veggie Sliders. Photo by Paul del Rosario for FOOD Magazine
The case only changes if you have gluten hypersensitivity and intolerance towards it. But don’t mistake it for a wheat allergy—that’s different. “If we will talk about basic principles, just to lay the premise, there is wheat allergy. When they eat it, the basic problem is they develop rash. Now, we have gluten hypersensitivity that’s not necessarily an allergy. It’s a result of eating wheat products and then their immune system will have a hyper reaction to gluten,” he explained.
Gluten hypersensitivity symptoms are sometimes vague and can be mistaken for an allergy. Its effects can go from mild skin rashes to severe anaphylaxis (extreme coughing, trouble breathing, fainting, and vomiting to name a few serious reactions). That is why seeing a doctor when such symptoms occur is really vital to help distinguish the difference between them.
The more serious problem, however, is not an allergy. It’s Celiac Disease. But should we really be worried? Dr. Ortigas says no. Caucasians and Scandinavians are more prone to gluten hypersensitivity, intolerance and Celiac Disease. Sure, there are rare cases here in the Philippines but that’s just at an extremely low percentage.
Eating healthy is a challenge for many of us. Some foods are just so hard to say no to—including those with gluten components. But to ultimately maximize the full potential of a healthy diet, we have to be attuned to our body’s needs and sense what’s good for us first before deciding to alter our diet in a drastic way. It won’t hurt if you decide to consult with an expert before going all out gluten-free.
Banner by Ales Krivec from Unsplash. Thumbnail by rawpixel from Unsplash