gluten explained

Gluten explained

gluten explained

Gluten can feel tricky to get your head around. Let’s run through it together to understand the effect of gluten on your body.

Gluten explained

As our shelves and restaurant menus fill up with “gluten-free” options, there are rising concerns around gluten. Often painted in a bad light, gluten can feel tricky to get your head around, let alone work out if you can eat it or not. To cut through the noise, let’s explore gluten and its impact together. 

What is gluten?

In its simplest form, gluten is a naturally occurring protein. Typically, it’s found in a number of grains, such as wheat, rye, spelt, and barley.

From its natural form, it’s typically added to a variety of foods to add protein, texture, and flavour, or it’s used as a binding agent.

Therefore, you’re likely to find it in a number of staples, such as bread and pasta. As the rise of processed and on-the-go foods continues to grow, gluten is increasingly being used in other foods such as soups, sauces, drinks, cosmetics, nutritional supplements, and processed meats. With more uses comes more cases of reactions for people with diets and lifestyles that might not typically include the usual gluten culprits. 

When gluten doesn’t agree with you

The rise of being “gluten-free” out of choice as a diet supports a narrative that gluten is bad for you. Humans have been eating gluten for as long as we’ve been cooking and producing foods from grains. Gluten isn’t bad for all people, but it’s also not suitable for all people, depending on how your body digests the protein. When things go well, gluten can be an excellent protein source. When things go not so well, it could be the culprit behind a number of painful issues. 

Typically, if your body is reacting badly to gluten, you could either be experiencing:

The difference between the two is that celiac disease is when your body’s defence system (immune system) is triggered when you eat gluten, and your body starts to attack itself. In contrast, intolerance (non-celiac sensitivity) is when your body doesn’t like gluten, but it’s not reacting in the same way as celiac disease. It can still feel painful and make your stomach and body feel bad, though, so it’s not any less relevant, whichever one may be affecting you. 

How do you know you’re reacting badly to gluten?

Signs of a negative response to gluten usually develop within minutes to hours after being eaten and can often include a combination of:

  • Anaemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Bone pain or osteoporosis
  • Brain fog or difficulty concentrating
  • Delayed Growth in Children
  • Depression and Anxiety
  • Digestive issues, such as diarrhoea, constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, gas, fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Infertility or miscarriages
  • Irritability
  • Joint pain
  • Migraines
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Skin problems such as eczema, rashes, dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Tingling or numbness in hands and feet
  • Weight loss
While any number of these individually can be put down to other medical issues or one-off occurrences, if you find yourself experiencing one or more of these symptoms for a prolonged period, it’s worth taking the next steps to take control of your health.

Do you suspect a negative gluten response?

Rather than rely on self-diagnosis, it’s a good idea to find out what’s causing your discomfort. We often find people put off finding out the cause of the symptoms because they fear what comes next. If you’re worried gluten is reacting negatively with you, you’re not alone. Coeliac disease affects at least 1 in 100 people in the UK, and non-coeliac sensitivity (NCGS) varies between 1% and 13% of the population. Life after a gluten test isn’t as daunting as it might feel.

Our approach to managing allergies is personalised and tailored to your specific needs. If gluten is causing you problems, we’ll work with you to develop a treatment plan that may include dietary adjustments, lifestyle changes, and expert guidance on how to live a gluten-free life while maintaining good nutrition.

Understanding gluten can feel overwhelming, but it’s not something you have to go through alone. Don’t hesitate to take the next steps towards better health. Register as a new patient today, and let’s start the process of helping you feel better. You have the option to visit our London-based allergy clinic for a comprehensive evaluation by our specialists or take advantage of our home allergy test.

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