Is Gluten in your Roti, the cause of your frequent digestive problems?
‘Gluten-free’ is trending on many food labels these days. Roti has been a staple food for most parts of Northern India and gluten allergy or sensitivity was not prevalent in earlier generations. But lately, we hear about celiac disease, gluten intolerance or allergy. Let’s find out if your digestive issue is related to Gluten.
What is gluten, and why are more and more people becoming sensitive to gluten?
Gluten is a family of storage proteins known as prolamins found in whole wheat, wheat flour, rava, maida, barley, rye and their products. Gluten has proteins gliadin and glutenin, gliadin is very sticky when wet and gives the flour a glue-like consistency and hence the name.
It has been reported that a change in the variety of wheat grown from ancient (diploid) wheat which was consumed by our ancestors to modern (hexaploid) wheat, where gluten produces antigenic reaction (producing antibodies due to immunological response) in certain individuals could be the cause of many health problems. Some individuals are unable to digest high content of proline and glutamine residues of the protein and it causes various symptoms. So, gluten-related health issues are due to the complex outcome of varied reasons which involve human genetics, plant genetic modifications, environmental toxins like high nitrogenous fertilizers, pesticides, hormonal influences, intestinal infections and autoimmune response. All these are leading to a surge in what is called Gluten related disorders.
Right now, there are three known conditions with different reactions to gluten. Symptoms are varied affecting more than just the abdomen including the skin, nervous system, reproductive health, respiratory health, joints, mental health and more. According to AIIMS, the majority of cases of gluten sensitivity are under-diagnosed.
Following are the gluten-related disorders with symptoms
- Celiac disease – This is due to an immune reaction to gluten. Symptoms include bloating, chronic diarrhoea, constipation, gas, loose, greasy, bulky, and bad-smelling stools, nausea or vomiting, pain in the abdomen, brain fog, skin rash, anaemia, joint pain etc. And one has to completely eliminate gluten from their diet to avoid complications. Since this has a genetic component it may be hereditary.
- Non-celiac gluten intolerance or sensitivity (NCGS) is a milder condition (after ruling out celiac disease) that is a symptomatic response to ingestion of gluten. Symptoms include bloating, abdominal discomfort, diarrhoea, flatulence, tiredness, headaches, and anxiety.
- Wheat allergy: Immune system overreacts to wheat but one may consume other grains containing gluten. Symptoms include rashes, nasal congestion, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, difficulty breathing, swelling of the lips or tongue, itchy and watery eyes.
Gluten free diet is recommended for the first two with medications and wheat free diet for wheat allergy.
If you suspect that Gluten is the cause of your recurrent digestive problems, you can do the following:
- Many symptoms overlap and the best way to diagnose is to consult a doctor, get the required tests done to rule out if gluten is the reason for your symptoms
- Work closely with a dietician to know the right diet to replace and maintain your everyday nutrition.
- It is not a good idea to eliminate without proper testing as you may miss out on some of the nutrients and fiber although including a variety of whole grains is always beneficial. Also, some of the gluten-free processed foods on the shelf may be highly processed and devoid of fiber.
Millet, buckwheat, and amaranth are some of the gluten-free grain options.