It seems that lately everyone is talking about gluten and how it can have negative effects, especially in certain people. Even if you're not entirely sure what it is, chances are thatyou're wondering if it's the hidden cause behind your ailments. Many people are now searching for gluten free foods in just about everything they eat. It leads many to wonder what is gluten and should it be avoided?

What Is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein that is found in grains like wheat, rye, and barley. For years, we've been told that having a healthy portion of grain is good for us but now many are telling us to be cautious in consuming this type of food. This has caused some confusion about what is correct. Just like with all other medical conditions, everyone reacts to things in different ways and the same is true for gluten.

The Wheat Intolerance Syndrome:

The term wheat intolerance syndrome applies to the entire category of gluten reactions. This category includes celiac disease, non-celiac gluten sensitivity, and wheat allergies. Depending on where you fall in the spectrum will determine how your body will react when you consume gluten.

For example, a non-celiac gluten sensitivity (or gluten intolerance) will cause the body to build up a stress response in the gastro-intestinal tract while celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that affects the small intestine. Part of determining what is gluten and should it be avoided will be to learn to understand these terms and how they affect the body.

Celiac Disease:

For those who have celiac disease there is no doubt that gluten can be very damaging to their health. It can bring on extreme joint pain, lethargy, headaches, and intestinal pain when they consume foods containing gluten.

Gluten Sensitivity:

Gluten sensitivity occurs in those who do not have celiac disease and do not have an allergy to wheat. While the actual cause of this condition is still unknown, the symptoms of a gluten sensitivity can be mental fatigue (brain fog), physical fatigue, abdominal pain, gas and bloating, along with headaches.

Wheat Allergy:

When there is an immune response to any of the proteins found in wheat, including gluten, you have a wheat allergy. Wheat allergies are more commonly found in children and are usually outgrown by the time they reach adulthood. The symptoms of a wheat allergy can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, irritation in the mouth and throat, hives, rashes, eye irritation, and sometimes difficulty in breathing.

It is vital to know that a gluten intolerance can apply to any one of these health issues as it merely describes the body's inability to process gluten. Whether you have a wheat allergy, celiac disease, or a sensitivity to gluten, your first step is to come to understand exactly what is gluten and should it be avoided. Once you know where you fall on the gluten spectrum the easier it will be for you to decide whether or not to eliminate it completely from your diet. Since everyone will react differently to these foods, it is not necessary for everyone to avoid gluten in their diet. But if you fall in any of these categories, you will feel a lot better and have less discomfort if you do.