Gluten isn't all bad

Gluten isn't all bad

Gluten isn't all bad
The most ‘in’ thing in the food world currently, is to go on a gluten-free diet. Many celebrities are promoting these diets. Many restaurants are offering a special gluten-free menu to their customers. Supermarkets are giving space for gluten-free products. Almost everybody seems to be avoiding gluten like the plague. So, let’s demystify the gluten mystery and get our facts right.

So, what exactly is this gluten and what is gluten intolerance? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, oats and other cereals. It is often difficult for the gut to digest it, if the gut happens to be weak due to many environmental factors. If the person is sensitive to the protein, the intolerance generally shows in the form of various problems like weight loss, obesity, dwarfism, mouth ulcers, rashes, bloating and intestinal problems, upon consumption of such food. These individuals are detected as ‘gluten intolerant’ by medical forces.

The concept of gluten intolerance is very easily misunderstood. People are either uninformed or misinformed about gluten.

For the misinformed
Gluten is predicted to be the new carbohydrates. Like carbohydrates, gluten is earning the false reputation of being harmful and fattening. What a gluten-free diet does is mainly cut off excess calories from the diet (the kind found in bakery and other high-calorie items). This results in weight loss. However, omitting gluten from diet causes deficiency of certain nutrients, which in turn causes weight loss. Thus, going on a gluten-free diet is a dangerous way to reduce weight. Therefore, a person should go on a gluten-free diet, only if needed, or if it is proved as a symptomatic relief to the individual.

For the uninformed
Most people don’t exactly understand the symptoms of gluten intolerance. The symptoms, that is, weight loss, obesity, acidity, mouth ulcers, skin rashes, vomiting, constipation and bloating are very common and misleading. In most cases, home remedies and self-medication is practised. In India, about 40 per cent of the cases had advanced symptoms due to self-medication and delay in consulting doctors. Gluten intolerance, if not treated in time, can lead to coeliac disease. Severe cases can cause cancer, neurological disorders and even prove fatal.

Gluten intolerance is genetic in nature. But a person can get affected by it at any age. Awareness and proper treatment can help protect a person from being affected by the condition. Genetic testing and nutrigenomics play a crucial role in identifying and treating gluten allergies. There is now a new technology, which can estimate how gluten can be intolerant and which aspects of individual intolerances should be avoided. Being aware and availing of proper treatment at the right time will help manage the condition.

(Dr Raut is CEO & Dr Dharmatti is chief nutrigenomic counsellor & dietician, GeneSupport)

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