What’s the Big Deal About Gluten?

Several years ago people started talking about removing gluten from their diet.  There was a lot of talk about it being the next great fad diet. Many more made fun of one needs to avoid gluten unless you're diagnosed celiac, right?  Maybe. Maybe not.  Read on and let's dissect this beast.  

If you're not eating gluten, it's important to know what it is first...

Gluten, which literally means glue, is a protein found in some grains that provide these products with elasticity and thickness (picture a giant dough ball before it becomes pizza crust....mmmm pizza).  Gluten can be found in wheat, barley, and rye, which is found in a variety of food/beverages like beer, cereals, pastas, breads, salad dressings, and more.  Oats can be grown in the same fields as gluten grains, which means you have to look for certified gluten-free oats. 

When a celiac patient eats gluten, their digestive tract becomes inflamed. This causes bowel distress, nutrient malabsorption, joint pain, fatigue, and just an overall feeling of yuck.  Some celiac patients require 18 months to 2 years before their digestive tracts will heal and they begin to feel normal again.  This is a serious concern and should be treated just as seriously as a nut allergy or any other food allergy.  Celiac patients have a hard time eating out as the kitchen staff would need to have been trained in proper food allergy protocols.  

Even though some avoid gluten and really don't know why, there may be good reason to avoid it, even if you don't have celiac disease.  There's something called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS).  Until recently, many believed this was something those darned hippies made up as the next cool thing.  New studies estimate that approximately 30% of the population have NCGS, in contrast to those with celiac, which afflicts approximately 1% of the population.  It's a bit silly to be calling it a fad at this point.  

Unfortunately, there is no definitive test at this time for NCGS.  It's really a diagnosis by exclusion.  Individuals with NCGS will present with the same issues as a celiac patient, but less severe.  The best way to determine whether you are one of the 30% is to simply remove gluten from your diet.  If you have NCGS, you will know in a matter of 5 to 7 days when your symptoms begin to improve and you begin to feel better.  

The moral of the story kids...let's not mock everything we haven't heard of or don't entirely understand. starts from within!


Cruchet, S., Lucero, Y., & Cornejo, V. (2016). Truths, myths and needs of special diets: attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and vegetarianism. Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism, 68(1), 43-50. doi:10.1159/000445393

MOCAN, O., & DUMITRAŞCU, D. L. (2016). The broad spectrum of celiac     disease and gluten sensitive enteropathy.

Clujul Medical, 89(3), 335–342. 

Sunny Brigham, MS, CNS

I'm Sunny! I'm a board-certified clinical nutritionist with an MS in Clinical Nutrition. I help individuals reduce fatigue, eliminate bloat, and lose weight by healing the digestive tract and balancing hormones. I provide individual and group nutrition consultations nationwide. Grab my metabolism boosting guide!

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