To gluten or not to gluten? The truth behind the diet trend

Planning for a gluten-free diet? It might not turn out to be the best decision in favor of your overall health. Here's why.

To gluten or not to gluten? The truth behind the diet trend

Thursday January 11, 2024,

4 min Read

In recent years, gluten-free diets have gained immense popularity. According to future market insight data, the global gluten-free products market is likely to gain a value of US$ 5,700 Mn in 2022. It is expected to accumulate a market value of US$ 11,191 Mn by registering a CAGR of 7% in the forecast period 2022 to 2032. 

Where everybody’s focus is on going gluten-free, the question is if it is a genuine medical necessity for all. Multiple research studies have revealed that unless you have a wheat allergy, celiac disease, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten can be a healthy option for you. Hence, it is extremely crucial to understand your body’s needs before following any diet trend as a lifestyle choice.

In today’s article, we will dive deep into understanding the need for a gluten-free diet, its health implications, and risks associated. So, let’s start.

What is gluten, and why do we care?

Gluten is a composite of proteins that provides elasticity and structure to many grain-based products like wheat, rye, barley, bread, and pasta. Gluten in general is a good source of protein, soluble fiber, and nutrients. 

However, for individuals with celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder affecting the small intestine, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that damages the intestinal lining. This causes malabsorption of nutrients and various health complications. Gluten sensitivity, wheat allergy, and gluten ataxia are other conditions where individuals may experience adverse reactions to gluten.

Who should go gluten-free?

Even though going gluten-free may show some positive changes like relief from digestive issues, reduced chronic inflammation, and a boost of energy. It is not recommended for everyone as there are potential downsides to it if not planned wisely. 

But if you are someone diagnosed with one of the following issues, then going gluten-free becomes a need:

  • Celiac disease
  • Gluten sensitivity
  • Wheat allergy
  • Gluten ataxia

However, the rise in gluten-free diets as a lifestyle choice raises lots of questions about the health of the majority.

What a gluten-free diet must constitute?

Though recommended only for those with a genuine medical need to avoid gluten. If you still wish to try a gluten-free diet. Start by avoiding foods with gluten including products made with wheat bran or flour like bread, pasta, cookies, etc., semolina, barley, rye, brewers’ yeast, malt, muesli, cereals, sauces, and dressings, beer, pizza, couscous, and other baked goods. 

As products labelled gluten-free are mostly too expensive opting for natural foods that don’t have gluten in them can be reasonable. For example, go for meat, fish, eggs, unflavoured dairy products, fruits and vegetables, grains like quinoa, rice, amaranth, buckwheat, chickpea flour, nuts and seeds, and more.

Remember, a well-balanced gluten-free diet should include a variety of fruits, vegetables, proteins, and other whole foods to ensure adequate nutrient intake.

Risk factors related to a gluten-free diet

While a gluten-free diet is essential for those with specific medical conditions, it is not without its potential drawbacks when adopted unnecessarily. Some gluten-free products on the market are often highly processed and may lack essential nutrients, including fibre, iron, and B vitamins. Additionally, individuals who self-diagnose and eliminate gluten from their diets without medical supervision may miss out on these crucial nutrients, leading to nutritional deficiencies.

Bottomline

The decision to go gluten-free should be based on a clear understanding of one's health needs rather than following the latest dietary trends. So, for individuals diagnosed with celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, gluten ataxia, or wheat allergy, a gluten-free diet is a medical necessity. Whereas, for the general population without these conditions a gluten-free diet may not offer any health benefits and could even pose risks.

Therefore, it is crucial to consult with a doctor before making significant dietary changes, so that you have accurate information about your health status and the nutritionally balanced diet for your body. The key is to make informed decisions. 

Hence, the gluten-free trend is not a medical necessity for all, it may be more of a fad than a fact. Instead, individuals should prioritise a well-balanced diet that meets their nutritional requirements.