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If you love the shape of your food, especially breads, you have already welcomed gluten into your world. From a layman’s book, “gluten” is responsible for the elasticity of dough used to prepare bread in the Indian households. It is essentially a mixture of proteins present in cereal grains, especially wheat, shaping our “rotis” and holding it together.

While for most of us, gluten is introduced into our bodies at early stages of our lives leading to no problems, there are human bodies, which reject gluten and may have celiac disease. It is an autoimmune disease occurring in genetically predisposed people where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in small intestine.

The celiac disease is estimated to affect 6-8 million Indians. However, it is important to understand that celiac disease should not be confused with gluten allergy or its intolerance.

Whether you are gluten-intolerant or not, it is always advisable to transcend to a healthier lifestyle eliminating gluten from your daily meals.

The more commonly popular reasons to opt for gluten-free meals are listed below:

In people with this autoimmune disease, gluten triggers the immune system to attack small intestine. Even trace amounts of gluten can cause significant damage. With repeated attacks, small intestine loses its ability to absorb vital nutrients such as calcium and iron. Over time, people with untreated celiac disease can develop severe nutritional deficiencies such as osteoporosis and iron-deficiency anemia, as well as other autoimmune disorders, extreme fatigue, infertility, neurological problems and, in a very small percentage of cases, lymphoma of the small intestine. People diagnosed with celiac disease should adopt a strict, gluten-free diet. This allows small intestine to heal so that it can absorb nutrients properly, and reduces the risk of associated problems.

To control dermatitis herpetiformis (DH)

DH is a form of celiac disease that triggers the immune system to attack the skin, rather than the small intestine. It causes a chronic itchy, bumpy rash that can be quite painful. A tell-tale sign of DH, besides the fact that it shows up after eating gluten, is that the rash is usually symmetrical – if you develop a rash on your left elbow, you will most likely have a similar rash on the right elbow. If people with DH continue to eat gluten, they also may run an increased risk of developing intestinal cancer. Once diagnosed, however, people with DH are usually highly motivated to stick with a gluten-free diet to avoid these painful rashes.

To reduce symptoms of gluten sensitivity

Unlike celiac disease and DH, gluten sensitivity is not an autoimmune disease. It is more like lactose intolerance – the inability to process or metabolize lactose – except the fact that gluten cannot be metabolized. People with gluten sensitivity experience gastrointestinal distress – ranging from diarrhea, gas, and bloating to constipation and irritable bowel symptoms – when they eat gluten. (People with celiac disease, on the other hand, may experience these symptoms, or may have no symptoms at all.) The occasional slice of pizza may cause some short-term digestive discomfort, but it is not believed to increase the risk of serious long-term consequences.