It seems that more and more people are following gluten-free diets. It may be in part a food fad as there are many, but it also responds to a medical reality: not only do celiac have problems with this component present in wheat and other cereals, but there are many people with sensitivity to it. But then, is it healthy to follow a gluten-free diet?
Celiac and people sensitive to gluten
To simplify, there are basically two types of people who have problems when they eat gluten
In the first place there are the celiac, who represent a fairly minority proportion of the population (approximately 1%), but with a high percentage of people who do not know they have the disease. A few months ago we published an article in this blog explaining how you can know if you are celiac.
But not only celiac people have problems with gluten. Since relatively recently, science has detected that there is a proportion of the population that, even without being celiac, has gluten sensitivity problems that cause significant digestive discomfort. According to some estimates, this group of people could represent up to 10% of the Spanish population, with 90% undiagnosed.
If in doubt, consult your doctor
The important thing, if you think you can have problems with gluten, is that you go to consult your doctor to find out what your condition is. Because as it is a subject that is very fashionable, many people modify their diet without medical opinion, thinking that gluten is to blame for all their ills. They may be right, but it may also be that the problems derive from another cause, and that is why it is better to ensure a professional diagnosis.
Beware of products labeled “gluten-free”
Since there is so much talk about gluten, there is an important debate about whether stopping eating gluten is good or bad. In principle, nothing happens to follow a gluten-free diet, but there is a fact that you have to take into consideration.
The clear majority of food products (vegetables, eggs, fruits, rice, corn, meat, fish, etc.) have no gluten in their original condition, although they can be added when they are processed industrially. But when you go to the fruit and vegetable section, they do not put a “gluten-free” label on the apples. In contrast, all processed products that contain many ingredients but not gluten come with the symbol of “gluten free” or the corresponding mention.
And this is where a psychological factor influences. A person who has been diagnosed as celiac or sensitive to gluten may be more likely to buy products labeled “gluten-free” than basic products that do not contain gluten but do not indicate it, because they are obviously not. Then, there is a risk of consuming many processed products, which are often not good for health, because they contain trans fats , refined flours of poor quality, palm oil, a lot of fat, a lot of sugar, etc …
However, that has an easy solution. Enough with a little information. Whoever wants to follow a gluten-free diet just must learn the list of basic products that contain it (basically wheat and some other cereal) and on the contrary, know the products that do not have it (which is almost everything else). Avoiding processed food, a gluten-free diet is just as healthy as a gluten-free diet.
Sometimes, the gluten-free diet is healthier
But it’s not because of the absence of gluten. It happens for a reason very similar to the one we discussed earlier. One of the most harmful kinds of food for health is the industrial bakery. For many people, stop eating gluten has therefore to stop eating those buns, which quickly translates into an improvement in the quality of food, with the positive effects it can have on health. But, again, the problem is not gluten, but processed food of poor quality.