What is gluten ?
Gluten is a protein naturally contained in certain cereals:
The mnemonic to remember is B-R-O-W
Why does gluten have such a bad press?
Basically this protein is harmless but following several mutations made in agriculture to make cereals stronger against environmental conditions (climate, drought, insects, flood). The ancient wheat became the modern wheat and moreover the cereals are not consumed any more “whole” but refined.
Refining consists in removing the bark of the cereal and exposing the grain. Once crushed, the grains give the white flour we know and the more it is rich in gluten the more elastic the dough will be.
When we eat foods made with modern refined white flour, the gluten without the husks directly touches the intestinal linen and can become irritating. This is why there is an epidemic of “gluten intolerant” people.
This does not at all mean that there are more people with allergies than before, it is simply that wheat has changed and is less digestible because it has lost almost all the fiber that protected the grain.
The second problem is that refined flours become fast sugars at the same time because the carbohydrates of the grain are already ready to pass the intestinal barrier without waiting for the separation from the fibers. We then notice an increase in the insulin level following the ingestion of refined flour and thus a weight gain, a resistance to insulin, hormonal disturbances etc…
What is the gluten-free diet?
The gluten-free diet consists of completely eliminating from the diet all cereals containing gluten, the by-products of these cereals and the foods made from these by-products (examples: malt vinegar, certain ground meats, sausages, broth, thickeners….). Grains containing gluten that are harmful to celiac patients include wheat (including spelt and kamut), rye and barley. Oats are not always contraindicated in celiac patients.
Who is the gluten-free diet for?
Celiac disease is a true allergy to gluten. The disease affects approximately 1% of the general population. This prevalence is underestimated due to the existence of undiagnosed forms and the exact prevalence is closer to 2 to 4%. This intolerance results in an immunological reaction caused by the gliadin in gluten, leading to the destruction of the epithelium of the intestine (or villous atrophy). Symptoms vary from one individual to another and forms with few symptoms are common. Diet is the only effective treatment, as there are no drug alternatives. The diet must be followed for life to avoid complications such as bone demineralization, deficiencies (iron, calcium, etc.) and sometimes more serious complications such as lymphoma.
Gluten intolerance should not be confused with the rarer wheat allergy, which involves a different immune mechanism and immediate hypersensitivity reactions with allergic manifestations (skin rash, angioedema, anaphylactic shock in the most severe forms).
2. Gluten hypersensitivity: Gluten intolerance outside of any celiac disease (Non Celiac Gluten Sensitivity or NCGS). This entity is characterized by the recurrent occurrence of digestive symptoms (bloating, diarrhea, abdominal pain) and extradigestive symptoms when consuming certain flours, which form a clinical picture similar to that of irritable bowel syndrome.
These subjects suffer from abdominal pain, alternating diarrhea-constipation, abdominal bloating, mood disorders, headaches… In this case, the role of gluten in the development of these symptoms remains to be demonstrated because there is no intestinal villous atrophy.
3. All people who feel better by not eating gluten or by eating much less gluten can do so because gluten is not essential to life.
Establishing a diagnosis
The diagnosis is based on the search for specific serum antibodies to the disease in the blood, anti-transglutaminase IgA; confirmation is made by biopsies of the upper part of the small intestine (duodenum) by endoscopy.
The only treatment for celiac disease is a strict gluten-free diet for life. The gluten-free diet should lead to a remission of symptoms.
Allergic people are allergic to even small traces of gluten, so all processed products should be checked carefully as they may contain traces.
Foods that are naturally gluten-free
– grilled meats
– corn, rice, buckwheat, quinoa, potato, soy, millet, sorghum
-lentils, soybeans, beans, legumes, chickpeas
What do you think of the “gluten-free” processed foods ?
Many of these foods, which are basically designed for celiac patients, are industrial products. Their composition, beyond the gluten-free guarantee, is not always exemplary. They are often made of corn, rice or soy flour and have a very high glycemic index.
Eating industrial gluten-free products can be a good way to replace bread if you have a known allergy.
However, these are not diet products that will help you lose weight or that you can incorporate into your daily routine.
They are often very expensive and not very famous for their taste and texture.
Does the gluten-free diet make you lose weight?
Eliminating bread, pasta, pizza, pancakes, cakes, cookies and other products made with wheat flour will inevitably lead to a sharp drop in the consumption of carbohydrates and sugar.
As a result, weight loss is possible if you eliminate gluten, not if you replace it with gluten-free carbs. Just like in a Low Carb diet.
Now if the wheat based products are replaced by industrial products based on rice flour, but, soy, the carbohydrate levels return the same or even higher than before and in this case, the gluten free diet can even make you gain weight.
It is therefore necessary to consume raw and naturally gluten-free products and to limit sugars and simple carbohydrates to have an effect on weight.
The gluten-free diet can also have beneficial effects on the skin, acne, eczema, psoriasis, but also on fertility, hypothyroidism, autoimmune diseases, fatigue etc..
Article written by Elsa and Romane, dieticians at Foodvisor.