We’ve all seen the signs and advertisements everywhere. Whether at the grocery store or at the local chic new restaurant, Gluten-Free is everywhere. But do we really know what Gluten is? And what exactly does Gluten-Free mean?

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Let’s start with the basics.

What is Gluten?
Gluten is not meant to be confused with Gluttony, a sin of overindulgence. Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barely, and rye. Basically it is found in grains. Many of us, without realizing, really love gluten. From pizza dough to rye bread to soup flavoring, we eat gluten everyday.

But not everyone is able to eat Gluten.
Celiac Disease is a chronic digestive disorder that prevents those diagnosed from being able to process Gluten. In fact, when these people ingest gluten, their body’s immune system sees Gluten as a hostile invader, which causes an extreme and uncomforting immune system reaction. These reactions can cause damage to the small intestine, which in turn can cause even more gastronomical and nutrient related problems. In more serious and untreated cases, these reactions and their after affects can lead to infertility, osteoporosis, and even cancer. For these people, gluten-free isn’t some fad diet, it is a necessity.

Should you be Gluten-Free?
Unless you have Celiac Disease, the answer isn’t so clear. Going gluten-free isn’t as simple as omitting breads from your diet. Gluten is found in many sauces, dressings, and seasonings, so you are also going to have to give up a lot of flavor. On top of the pain of having to find actual gluten-free foods, you might run the risk of missing out on many other nutrients that usually come with these foods, like vitamin B or iron. People equate gluten-free with weight loss, but really, the weight loss comes from the absence of the gluten-rich food, which is usually processed many times over and contains other fattening ingredients. These extra ingredients are what usually cause weight gain or halt weight loss, not the gluten.

Going gluten-free requires one to carefully and meticulously plan their meals to ensure they get all the nutrients their body needs, which normally results in an overall healthier diet, which usually leads to weight loss.