WHAT HAP­PENS WHEN...

...you eat gluten?

Women's Health (UK) - - CONTENTS -

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.

BLOATED STATE

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.

GUT RE­AC­TION

‘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

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