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What Is Gluten and Is It Really That Bad for You?

Ashley Stern
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More and more foods are being labelled as gluten free. Those with Celiac Disease cannot eat gluten since it causes an immune response and severe damage to the small intestines and intestinal tract. Others eliminate gluten from their diets as part of a new trend in healthy eating. But why? What is this gluten stuff, and why is it bad for you?
 
Gluten gives bread and baked goods that stretchable doughy texture that we all know and love. Gluten is a protein found in grains, especially wheat and wheat byproducts, but also grains such as farro, rye, barley, bran, and some processed oats (the gluten shows up during processing at factories that also package grains containing gluten).
 
But what makes gluten so bad for you? Well, the answer is nothing for most people. Gluten isn’t necessarily bad for you. However, many people cannot digest gluten or are sensitive to it. The following video explains how gluten affects the body.
 

 
If you’re trying to cut gluten from your own diet, make sure you’re reading labels and looking for hidden sources of gluten like thickeners or sweeteners.
 

 
Here is a quick list of grains that contain gluten to help you avoid gluten while shopping or dining out:

  • Barley
  • Bran
  • Durum
  • Farina
  • Farro
  • Graham
  • Kamut
  • Semolina
  • Seitan
  • Spelt
  • Wheat and wheat products

 
If you don’t have Celiac Disease or a sensitivity, you don’t necessarily have to cut gluten from your diet.
 
What you should do is listen to your body after you eat, and judge how you feel. If you feel tired, bloated, nauseous or experience vomiting, diarrhea or difficulty breathing, you might have a gluten sensitivity. If this is the case, you might want to cut gluten out of your diet for a week and see if the symptoms subside. If they do, you may have found the culprit of your digestive difficulties, and eliminating this agitator may ease your tummy troubles.
 

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Ashley Stern

A Wisconsinite at heart, Ashley is currently a student working on her masters in creative writing in Edinburgh, Scotland. She’s a writer, a reader, traveler, a nerd, and a lover of life. Ashley is new to yoga and developing her practice from her student flat. She drinks a lot of tea and even more coffee. She’s a dog person, wears lots of purple, and believes in Laini Taylor’s wise words, “Cake as a way of life.”

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