Gluten-Free Diet: Beneficial or Just a Trend? – Part 1

Written by Anil Bajnath, MD
Posted July 20, 2021

Dear Longevity Insider,

Gluten-Free (GF) food is necessary for anyone with Celiac Disease. Yet, more than ever, we are seeing non-celiac disease individuals opting for a GF lifestyle. With the rise of GF items at grocery stores astronomically more expensive than their non-GF counterparts, this has raised the questions:

Are there any benefits to a GF lifestyle? Or is avoiding gluten the latest diet trend?

What is Gluten?

According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is the name for a group of proteins most commonly found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale – a hybrid between wheat and rye. Gluten is a Latin word that stands for the word "glue." The two main components of the gluten portion of wheat are gliadin and glutenin. Gliadin is the water-insoluble (unable to be dissolved in water) component of gluten.

Gliadins are what give bread the ability to rise while baking. This gluten is found in products such as wheat flour. Glutenin is water-soluble (able to be dissolved in water) and gives dough strength and elasticity. Together, gluten proteins play a key role in the baking quality of wheat by providing flour with a high-water absorption capacity. When you knead flour with water, the gluten gives the dough a cohesive, viscoelastic mass that provides, for example, bread its structure and chewiness.

Common Grains that have Gluten:

  • Wheat
  • Barley
  • Rye
  • Triticale (a cross between wheat and rye)
  • Oats (While oats are naturally GF, it is possible for them to be exposed to gluten during production with other grains that have gluten. If you are looking for GF oats, make sure it is labeled as certified gluten-free.)

Some foods that contain gluten that may not be as obvious:

  • Soy Sauce: Wheat is the primary ingredient in standard soy sauce. A good alternative for soy sauce is coconut aminos, which is not only GF but much lower in salt.
  • Beer: It is typically made from malted barley and hops.
  • Processed Lunch Meats: Lunch meat (such as deli meats) may have gluten due to its potential gluten contamination with slicers, knives, etc. that are in contact with gluten-containing foods.
  • Dressings: If a dressing has wheat, barley, rye, (wheat) after an ingredient, then it contains gluten. Ingredients such as artificial color, dextrin, soy sauce, food starch, malt, and malt vinegar may contain gluten.
  • Krab: Imitation crab meat contains wheat.

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder triggered by consuming foods containing gluten. Celiac disease was first identified in the early 1900s. It wasn’t until about 1953 when scientists Dicke, Weijers, and Van de Kamer identified gluten as the culprit. It is estimated that celiac affects 1 in 133 people and about 3 million Americans are diagnosed with celiac disease.

When a person with celiac disease consumes foods with gluten, the immune system begins to attack it. As a result, gluten destroys the villi – small finger-like projections that line the small intestine, which then leave the intestines with no fibers to absorb nutrients, resulting in malnourishment.

Regular and ongoing intake of gluten for individuals with celiac disease can lead to serious irreversible health consequences such as: osteoporosis, skin rashes, nervous system problems, infertility, anemia, and more.

Individuals with celiac disease need to eliminate gluten altogether from their diet and ensure that the food they are consuming has not been cross contaminated with gluten-containing ingredients during production or preparation. A strict lifelong gluten-free diet is the only treatment for individuals with celiac disease, as there is no medication or surgical intervention that cures celiac disease.

More on the GF lifestyle on Thursday.

But until then, here's something that's become a MUST for my lifestyle.

 

To your longevity,

Anil Bajnath MD
CEO/Founder, Institute for Human Optimization
Chief Medical Officer, Longevity Insider HQ