A test can be used to determine if someone is gluten-intolerant. Eliminating gluten from your diet without any reason can lead to serious problems.
Medical Advisor Sandra Patricia Alfaro, Nutritionist
Practitioner at Coomeva Private Healthcare
It is becoming more common to find gluten-free products at the grocery store. But who should actually be including these products in their diet? Myths have been created, based on a lack of knowledge or on certain trends surrounding the consumption of gluten.
To better understand gluten, it is important to know that it is a composite of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and oats. Its function is to give texture to foods as it prevents them from falling apart or from losing their properties. It can also be found in products such as medications, vitamins and supplements.
“Gluten is a combination of two proteins: gliadin and glutamine. It is a component found in breads, desserts and even chocolate. It is important to have a good understanding of what it is in order to not eliminate it from your eating regime for no reason,” nutritionist Sandra Patricia Alfaro explains.
Can eliminating gluten help you lose weight? In response to this question, our nutritionist indicates that there is no evidence of this. She warns that a healthy person that eliminates it from their diet can experience health problems due to the potential of becoming deficient in vitamin B complex, a group of vitamins that are essential to how enzymatic, physiological, energy and defense mechanism processes function.
“Our diets should be balanced, and should include the nutrients we need. Instead of avoiding gluten, the idea is to avoid consuming industrialized products that affect our nutrition,” Alfaro affirms.
A study conducted by researchers from both Harvard and Columbia University published in the British Medical Journal, found a connection between a lack of gluten in the diet and the incidence of cardiovascular disease. According to the study, people who do not have celiac disease and do not consume this protein have a greater risk of dying from a cardiovascular or coronary event.
Know the symptoms
There are two conditions that determine whether people are gluten-intolerant: having a gluten allergy or celiac disease. Gluten allergies are common among Europeans and some Argentineans. This is a genetic trait that creates a reaction in the immune system similar to that which occurs with a typical food allergy reaction such as swelling, nausea and difficulty breathing.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that is caused by an intolerance to the protein in the gluten, affecting the digestive system. This condition leads to a series of complications and to atrophy in the small intestine. Common symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss and abdominal pain.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, “Symptoms may occur in the digestive system, or in other parts of the body. One person might have diarrhea and abdominal pain, while another person may be irritable or depressed.”
The reaction can be different in each individual. It can also be silent, with no symptoms to show. Some symptoms that are related to having this condition include anemia, height problems, behavioral problems, hair loss, miscarriages or bone fractures from light bumps or hits.
To find out if you have this disease, it is best to see a specialist and get blood testing that can help diagnose it. This will help determine whether it is necessary to eliminate gluten from your daily diet. If this disease is not diagnosed on time or if patients do not lead a gluten-free diet, they may suffer from anemia, low bone density or autoimmune disorders.
Gluten-free diets have become a trend, often followed by many people who do not have celiac disease. Self-medicating or coming to conclusions without receiving important analysis can be life-threatening and lead to serious health problems.
Eliminating this protein from your diet without replacing the nutrients that it provides with other foods such as corn or millet, can lead to malnutrition.
A gluten-free diet involves completely eliminating foods that contain, or are derivatives of, wheat, rye, barley and oats. Such a diet should be followed only with the recommendation of a specialist.
Alternatives if you have a gluten allergy
A gluten-free diet includes products that allow you to maintain a wide variety in your diet. It is mainly based on natural and fresh foods that do not contain this protein. Before purchasing these products, you should check the ingredients on the nutrition label, avoid buying bulk foods and omit those products without labels. Some ideas for the foods you may eat include:
- Grains: Corn, rice, millet, buckwheat, quinoa, amaranth, carob powder, tapioca, yucca and potato.
- Dairy products: Milk and milk products (cheeses, cottage cheese, cream, natural yogurt and cheese curds).
- Sweeteners: Honey, sugar, syrups, aspartame, cyclamates, saccharin and fructose.
- Fruits: All fruits, as well as dehydrated and fresh fruits, vegetables and legumes.
- Fats: Vegetable oils, butter and margarine (not all), vinegar and natural herbs and spices.
- Proteins: Eggs, fish or fresh seafood that is not breaded; meats and cured meats such as cured Spanish ham and high quality baked ham.
- Beverages: Coffee, tea, natural fruit juices and nectars, beer and wine.