Gluten-free foods are everywhere – you’ve surely seen them on the supermarket shelves, at health food shops, food markets, and on restaurant menus. You may also have noticed that they come at a price, though. A gluten free pizza base at a restaurant will cost you R20+ than a regular pizza base, and gluten free bread or flour can cost more than double the price of their regular gluten-containing counterparts.
Usually when people decide to cut something out of their diets, they have a very specific reason as to why they’re doing it and a thorough understanding of what they’re cutting out actually it is. But when it comes to going gluten free, it seems many people avoid it like the plague for no specific reason other than just going with the flow and following norm.
In this hilarious video, US talk show host Jimmy Kimmel wondered if all the “health conscious” gluten free people in LA actually knew what it was they were cutting out of their diet, so he sent a camera crew on the streets to ask them a simple question “What is gluten?”
This isn’t just the case in California, however. Even here at home so many people stop eating gluten but don’t even know what it is and why they’re cutting it out.. Other than being told by someone “It’s bad for you.” But is it really bad for you, and in what way?
What is gluten?
Jimmy Kimmel sums it up pretty well in the above video. “Gluten is a mixture of two proteins found in wheat, and other natural grains.” The proteins are known as glutenin and gliadin, and other than wheat, its also found in rye, barley, and spelt. So going gluten free means no pasta, no beer, no bread, biscuits, cakes – and no pizza. Although, gluten free alternatives of nearly all these products are popping up, though you’ll have to fork up quite a bit extra for them.
So is it bad for you?
As Jimmy says: “Some people can’t eat gluten for medical reasons.” It is estimated that about 1 in 100 people worldwide are gluten intolerant, either mildly or to a more serious extent. if you’re mildly sensitive to gluten, you can’t digest or breakdown the gluten proteins and you will have some discomfort if you eat gluten.
But Celiac disease is the name of the autoimmune disorder for those with the severe form of intolerance. It’s very serious – the body’s immune system attacks itself when gluten is eaten, causing damage to the gut wall, which results in poor absorption of food and an increased risk of many diseases. The only treatment for the people who suffer from Celiac disease is to follow a gluten free diet. So actually, gluten is only bad for the people who are actually sensitive to gluten or have celiac disease. These people, and you’ll know if you’re one of them, are really grateful for the plethora of gluten free products everywhere nowadays. But if you’re not one of these people, you’re probably just wasting your money by purchasing these gluten free foods.
Find out if gluten is bad for you
So instead of just assuming you are gluten intolerant and wasting money on expensive gluten free products, if you think you react negatively to gluten, you should consult with your doctor to get tested and diagnosed.
For more information, check out this resource from the Allergy Foundation of South Africa or chat to a medical professional.