Gluten Intolerance: What Is Gluten and Its Effects On Those Affected

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    Contamination risk: 'Gluten-free' grain-based foods in India found to  contain up to 90 times permissible levels

    Gluten is the talk of the town these days. But whenever most of us hear the word ‘gluten’, the mind is instantly filled with the image of foods that are unhealthy, as the result of the negative media coverage. However, you might be shocked to learn that gluten is not as evil as you might have previously thought.

    Gluten is a form of protein that is present in some commonly used grains including rye, wheat and barley. Gluten is the reason these grains have the structure needed by the plant to survive. While gluten is classified as a protein, it has no calorific benefits to humans and is only needed by the plants to remain healthy.

    There are some people who are gluten 'intolerant’ while others can eat it without any issues. The protein itself is totally harmless and those who are gluten-tolerant benefit from consuming it as ‘gluten rich’ grains are also rich in iron, fiber and Vitamin B.

    Let’s take a look at the problems that can arise if you happen to be ‘gluten intolerant’.

    Gluten intolerance means eating gluten-containing foods might cause the immune system to trigger a defense response similar to that when any bacteria is consumed. For people who are ‘gluten intolerant’, the immune system triggers a response in which the intestine cells are attacked by the immune system, leading to a lot of complications. If a gluten intolerant person keeps consuming gluten, the intestines might be damaged over time and could lead to fatigue, digestive disorders, nutrient deficiencies and even anemia.

    This is why people with gluten intolerance should aim to avoid gluten at all times but it is not always that easy. 60% of normal human diet has gluten or gluten-based ingredients in some form. For example, most bread, pasta, cereals, cakes and anything baked tends to contain gluten. Beer, malt, sauces and some salad dressings might also contain gluten as they are often made with grains containing gluten. Always read the label and look for products marked as being gluten-free.

    There are now many gluten free products available in the supermarket and health food shops. You can make most recipes gluten free by making a few adaptations.

    For those who are not into cooking, most restaurants offer gluten-free options on their menu, however if you are allergic rather than intolerant, it is extremely important to be careful on what you eat outside your own preparations, as many take away food outlet workers can be naive as to the severity introduced gluten can be to someone allergic, hence ensure gluten free is clearly advertised at the restaurant rather than taking an employee’s word for it.

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