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Is Gluten Really Bad For You

Furbie's Mama

A gluten-free diet has become the new Atkins-craze. Restaurants and stores are scrambling to offer new menu options for consumers who swear they can’t or won’t touch gluten. But what is gluten in the first place and is it really hiding away in your bread, waiting to kill you? Our guest writer Alex J Coyne explores the gluten-free fad for MedHatter…



Gluten is a Latin word, meaning glue, and put simply, it is a protein that gives elasticity to dough. When you’re kneading dough, you’re working to release the gluten. This means that it can be found in the diet of most people, in the form of breads, crackers, cakes and pastas – anything that contains barley, wheat or rye. Gluten can also show up in unexpected places as a listed ingredient – for example, as a stabiliser.

But what about people who are gluten intolerant?

According to WebMD, symptoms of sensitivity to gluten can include cramps, bloating, headaches and fatigue, among other things.

But some, like the author behind this article on National Review (, claim that the gluten-free fad is just that: mostly a passing health craze and a way for companies to make more money from mass-hysteria.



According to the Canadian Celiac Association, celiac disease affects one in every 133 people in Canada alone. It is described as a disorder by which consuming gluten causes damage to the small intestine and hampers the absorption of nutrients. This, in turn, can lead to problems like malnourishment, stinted growth (in children) and various vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

The only cure for celiac disease is by following a completely gluten-free diet.

But can people without celiac disease still be sensitive to gluten?

There are many reported cases of non-celiac related gluten sensitivity, attributed to other disorders like non-celiac gluten sensitivity and dermatitis herpetiformis, but there are also far more cases of people outside that realm, switching to gluten-free diets and claiming that “the glutens” are why they’ve been feeling a little odd lately.

One reason for this could be self-diagnosis and a misunderstanding of gluten-related disorders.



There’s one thing all medical professionals can agree on: self-diagnosis is dangerous! If you suspect you are sensitive to anything you’re doing to your body, see a doctor. Trying to find what’s wrong with you via a list of symptoms from the internet will make you believe you have brain cancer when you really just have a headache – or the other way around. Consult a medical professional before forming dangerous opinions about your health!



Here are five celebrities and public figures who struggle with celiac disease and have to avoid gluten as a result:

  • Zooey Deschanel
  • Susie Essman
  • Elisabeth Hasselbeck
  • Jennifer Esposito
  • Heidi Collins



Follow these links to learn more about gluten and celiac disease:

The Celiac Disease Foundation

Canadian Celiac Association

Coeliac UK

Coeliac Australia

The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America



Alex J Coyne is a South Africa-based author, freelance journalist, translator and language practitioner. He has written for national and international publications and blogs.

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