Many food products are now labelled with a gluten-free logo or certified gluten-free. Maybe 10 or 20 years ago, this label was not a concern yet. But the number of searches in Google has increased exponentially in recent years. (1) Even some have adopted a gluten-free diet. But what is gluten actually? 

Gluten is “a complex mixture of hundreds of related but distinct proteins, mainly gliadin and glutenin.” (2) Among grains, gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats. Any foods containing wheat will have gluten in them. To make it easy to remember, gluten is something that makes a dough become “stretchy.” That’s why some plant-based meat alternatives companies use gluten to create that “meaty” texture. 

There is no study, so far, suggesting that if you don’t have a problem with gluten, you should avoid gluten or a study that shows eating gluten can harm your health. Gluten comes from whole grains that also come with vitamins and minerals we need. There is nothing wrong with eating gluten from whole grains as long as you don’t have a problem with it. 

But how can you know if you have gluten intolerance or a problem with gluten? Usually, you will have these symptoms like bloating, gassy, abdominal pain, diarrhea or constipation, headache, brain fog, joint pain, fatigue, skin problems, anemia, or even depression after eating gluten. (3) If you notice any of these symptoms after consuming food containing gluten, please go to a doctor to check you further. 

In recent years, it seems that more and more people started to have gluten sensitivity or problems with ingesting gluten. The term gluten intolerance may be familiar to you, but there are several different categories. There are Celiac diseases (CD), allergy to wheat (WA), and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS). (4) CD is an autoimmune disease, while WA is a food allergy to wheat. For NCGS, it is “still a matter of debate whether NCGS is caused by gluten or other components of wheat.” (5

If you don’t have these problems with eating gluten, should you avoid gluten? It’s interesting to see non-gluten-sensitive people have also bought gluten-free products and think that it’s healthier. There are a lot of myths around gluten. Some thought that gluten is toxic. Some thought that adopting a gluten-free diet will help you avoid Celiac Disease.  

And if you have a problem with eating gluten, don’t worry; there are plenty of options of grains, fruits, nuts, legumes, vegetables, and foods you can consume! But if you have WA, the symptoms are “swelling or itching of the mouth or throat, hives, itchy eyes, shortness of breath, nausea, diarrhea, cramps, and anaphylaxis.” (6

The concern comes with gluten-free products that are coming out that actually have a lot of fat, and are high in calories, which can lead to many chronic diseases. (7) If you don’t have any problem with gluten, there is no reason to avoid it. It’s ok to eat gluten, whole grains that have gluten. It’s healthy for us, as long as we don’t have a problem with it.