Have you noticed the increase in gluten free foods lately? It’s no wonder that consumers are starting to ask, “What’s so wrong with gluten that we need gluten free?”
For starters – if you are healthy, there’s nothing wrong with gluten. Gluten is merely the protein found in wheat, rye and barley. For people that have celiac disease – and anywhere from 1 in 100 to 1 in 133 people in the US do – gluten is essentially poison to your gut. In celiac disease, gluten destroys the cells of your intestine, resulting in a wide array of nutritional disorders and gastrointestinal symptoms.
For the rest of us – there’s nothing wrong with gluten. It’s true that cutting out gluten by reducing the amount of refined grains and bread products in your diet can help you lose weight – but gluten is not inherently evil for the majority of the population.
You are hearing more about celiac disease not because more people are “getting it”, but rather because testing for and confirmation of diagnosis of celiac disease has improved dramatically over the past few years. People that used to have nebulous diagnoses such as “irritable bowel syndrome” are revisiting the possibility that they may have celiac or gluten intolerance.
If 1% of the population can’t tolerate gluten, that’s a huge emerging specialty market for restaurants and food manufacturers. Just this week, Subway announced they are trialing a gluten free bun in two Texas markets. PF Chang’s is already well known for their innovative gluten-free offerings.
If you do have celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten – then gluten free foods can be a godsend. There is a silver lining though: many gluten free products tend to be baked goods that are high in calories and fat, foods you don’t need that much of to begin with. Just because a product is gluten-free, does not a healthfood make!