Gluten, the bane of all of our existences and the cause of all of the health problems we face, or at least that’s what the popular media has told us lately. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, and barley, and it is commonly found in many different foods. The only people who have been confirmed to be harmed by gluten are those who have Celiac disease for example, but yet every celebrity is out there parading around on gluten free diets to
lose weight. When people who actually have bad reactions to gluten stop eating it, many end up gaining weight, because their bodies can finally absorb the nutrients.
In those few people (1% of the population) gluten could actually be considered to be downright poisonous. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where the gut is destroyed by gluten and its reactions to gluten. Over time, it can lead to weight loss, diarrhea, malnutrition, and it can even lead to death if not treated by cutting out gluten. It can also manifest in neurological issues, skin issues, and arthritis. There are even some who have stopped eating gluten and seemingly stopped suffering from issues like depression, but it depends on the person, and the problem is that 18% (not 1%) of people are buying gluten free food with no diagnosis and no real problems.
In some studies of these types of people who claim they have
gluten sensitivities, they didn’t react to foods when they didn’t think they had gluten. They are just spending more money for different packaging with no measurable health benefits, but plenty of extra calories in many of the foods.
There is still of course new research always coming out. Some studies have suggested that patients with IBS do better without gluten. Others have suggested that it’s not the wheat so much as the FODMAPs that were causing the reactions. A commentary in Gastroenterology said:
Non-celiac wheat sensitivity is a more appropriate label than non-celiac gluten senstivity. Gluten-free processed foods sometimes contain plenty of FODMAPs, by the way, and FODMAPs are tolerated well by a lot of people, just not by all. IN fact, many FODMAPs are a great source of prebiotics that help keep the gut healthy by providing food for the microbiome in the colon.
In 2014, Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics published a review called,
Randomised clinical trial: gluten may cause depression in subjects with non-celiac gluten sensitivity – an exploratory study. In celiac patients, there are sometimes signs of depression and anxiety, but it may apply to non-celiac sufferers as well? One study took non-celiac sufferers who supposedly had a non-celiac gluten sensitivity and gave them gluten bread for 3 days. There was no change in their experience with depression and anxiety. 22 participants were then brought together from another study of self-reported people with
non-celiac gluten sensitive patients with irritable bowel. Celiac disease had been ruled out, and they were put on a gluten free diet for 6 weeks with low FODMAP.
They were asked to add certain
challenge foods for 3 days, and then they had a washout period between these
challenges. They tracked their mental state, gastrointestinal symptoms, and cortisol was independently measured.
In all 3 challenges used, there were no differences in cortisol measurements. There was no difference in gastrointestinal symptoms regardless of which challenge they took first (whey, gluten, or placebo). All participants reported the most gastrointestinal issues in the first challenge, less in the second, and less in the third. In other words, there was no negative effect.
So what happened when it came to the depression? 90% of the final participants reported being more depressed while eating gluten as compared to a placebo, but the differences were not statistically significant. In other words, it is possible that gluten might have an effect on our depression. It doesn’t directly affect the stress hormone cortisol, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have an effect. However, the effect, if it were there, would be seemingly small.
Regardless, one can say that more research is needed. Maybe we shouldn’t write gluten off as a contributing factor (not a giant cause), but there is no conclusive evidence that it really has any effect right now.