WHAT HAPPENS WHEN...
...you eat gluten?
HARD TO STOMACH
‘Gluten is a large protein with a low surface area,’ says Dr Ayesha Akbar of the British Society of Gastroenterology. ‘As proteins pass through the digestive system, a greater surface area helps enzymes break them down.’ How can you help? Aim to chew 15 times per mouthful to keep those enzymes working.
BREAK IT UP
When you get down to the nitty gritty, gluten is made up of peptides gliadin and glutenin. Once these enter your intestines, the enzyme tissue transglutaminase (TTG) breaks it down. It’s here that coeliacs’ bodies attack gliadin, disrupting their ability to absorb nutrients from the food.
Bread leaving you bloated? Don’t be quick to blame gluten. ‘It’s not uncommon to experience bloating after eating wheatbased foods,’ says Dr Akbar. ‘But how much of that water retention is down to gluten and how much is because of short-chain carbs is hard to say.’ Use your loaf: cutting off crusts isn’t worth losing the fibre.
‘In the less than 1% of the population who suffer from coeliac disease, the body launches an autoimmune response to gluten, leading to nutrients not being absorbed,’ says Dr Akbar. Another 5-8% of us still experience some sensitivity, resulting in stomach upsets, but the rest are golden.
PEP ON A PLATE
Think skipping the spaghetti will give you extra va-va-voom? Think again. ‘Giving up gluten can increase tiredness,’ says Dr Akbar. ‘Foods containing gluten also provide other nutrients, and losing these can cause deficiencies that lead to fatigue.’ Focus on eating more fruit and veg over wheat substitutes.
Pass the parcel