Everywhere you go these days there are bold “GF” badges on menus. This stands for gluten-free, or in some cases, gluten-free options available. What grew in popularity as a fad diet is actually a very real issue for some people. As someone who has a gluten intolerance, I’m over the moon to be able to share everything I’ve learned about eating gluten-free, who should be avoiding gluten, and when to avoid it even if you’re not intolerant.
Today’s blog is all about gluten-free foods, answering “is gluten bad for you”, and more. So, if you’re curious about gluten intolerance and allergies, you’re in the right place.
Is Gluten Bad For Me?
The answer to this question isn’t black and white, so I’ll answer it in a few different ways. If you are allergic to gluten, have celiac disease, or have a gluten intolerance, then you should absolutely avoid gluten. Gluten includes wheat, barley, and rye and most byproducts of these grains. However, to say that gluten is bad for you as a blanket statement, is inaccurate.
It’s also important to know that not all gluten is processed the same way. Gluten that’s processed in high-heat, overly processed ways can irritate even the strongest stomachs. For example, gluten products like bread that contain artificial preservatives, dyes, flavors, and seed oils are not equivalent to a traditional sourdough bread made with just wheat, water, and salt.
Some people believe that everyone should avoid gluten, and others claim there’s nothing wrong with it. Like most hot topics, you’ll find varying opinions on how to approach gluten.
Do I Need To Avoid It?
From my experience, gluten should always be avoided if you’re intolerant or allergic, and if optimal health is your goal, the ingredients in the gluten product you’re consuming should be of importance. The issue is not everyone knows if they can tolerate gluten or not. I’ve had many friends cut gluten out of their diet and claim they feel so much lighter and more energized. In some cases, they may be slightly intolerant. In other cases, the types of gluten they were consuming was in the form of pizza, sugar-filled cereal, artificial candy, and bleached bread. If those are your sources of gluten, you’ll undoubtedly feel better cutting it out of your life. However, as mentioned, if you’re consuming organic, non-GMO, seed oil-free gluten products, and you’re not intolerant, there really is no reason to avoid it.
There are different ways that gluten can affect the body, too. Harvard conducted studies on whether gluten is harmful to the body or not, and who should avoid it. According to their findings, there are a few different reasons someone may want to avoid gluten: 
- Those that are non-celiac gluten sensitive – also referred to as gluten sensitive enteropathy (GSE) or gluten intolerant. These are people who seem to have an intolerance to gluten with similar symptoms to those with celiac disease, but without elevated levels of antibodies and intestinal damage.
- Those with wheat allergies. This means you have an allergy to one or more of the proteins (albumin, gluten, gliadin, globulin) found in wheat. Compared to celiac disease, which is a single intolerance to gluten.
- Those with dermatitis herpetiformis (DH). This is a type of skin rash that results from eating gluten. It is an autoimmune response that exhibits itself as a persistent red itchy skin rash that may produce blisters or bumps.
If you experience any of these side effects or have a hunch you may fall under one of these categories, it may be helpful to seek guidance from a physician or allergist to confirm if avoiding gluten is right for you.
In Conclusion: The Gluten-Free Phenomenon
All in all, gluten-free foods became popular as people started to notice they would drop weight from going on a gluten-free diet. When you think about it, most gluten-free diets are just low-carb diets. The majority of products that contain gluten are grain-based breads, pastas, and baked goods. It’s no surprise that people feel better when they remove these items from their diet.
However, going gluten-free isn’t necessary unless you truly do have a gluten intolerance. I’m someone who has gotten countless allergy tests, and not a single one has flagged gluten as a potential allergy for me. Yet, if I have so much as a few bites of something with gluten in it, my stomach and skin flare up almost immediately. Just like anything, deciding if gluten is right for you or not will take some intuition. When you’re eating, be sure to check in with your body. Do you feel good? Are you digesting well? Is your energy up and your stress down? These will all help guide you on knowing if a food is upsetting you or not.
To conclude, only you know what’s best for you. If you feel best with low or no gluten in your diet, do that. If it doesn’t bother you, don’t feel pressured to avoid it because people around you do. Eat what makes you feel good, and allow yourself to change your mind whenever it feels right.