NEW YORK ( MainStreet) — More and more people are starting to catch on to the wave of going gluten-free. Many, however, are unaware as to what gluten actually is and how it can potentially cause great damage to both the digestive and immune systems. It is also assumed that gluten-free diets are unavoidably costly, which is not necessarily true. Read on to find out more about gluten, to debunk some myths, and to learn how you can, in fact, go gluten-free on a budget!

What is gluten?

According to LiveScience, "gluten refers to the proteins found in wheat endosperm." More specifically, gluten is actually made up of two different proteins, gliadin and glutenin. Although the definition says that it is found in wheat endosperm, it can also be found in other grains such as barley and rye. Gluten is one of the primary ingredients in dough that helps it rise as bread and gives it its chewy texture.

Why should it be avoided?

This article from the Huffington Post explains that gluten, when consumed by a person who is gluten-allergic or gluten-intolerant, can react poorly with the natural enzymes in the digestive system. Over time, this negative reaction inhibits proper functioning of the intestinal walls, creating digestive issues and halting the absorption of vitamins and nutrients. This chain of events can lead to more serious issues such as "leaky gut syndrome," which is when large particles of undigested food make their way into the blood stream. Ultimately, various autoimmune diseases have the potential to arise from the leaky gut, because the cells will automatically start to attack the foreign particles.

Can gluten still bother me even if I don't have Celiac's disease?

Celiac's disease is the most commonly-known gluten allergy. However, even if you test negative for a gluten allergy, there is a chance that you may still be "gluten intolerant." According to the website for The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, "research estimates that 18 million Americans have non-Celiac gluten sensitivity. That's 6 times the amount of Americans who have Celiac disease."

What are the most common symptoms of gluten intolerance?

The most common symptoms involve bloating, constipation, fatigue, brain fog, joint pain, mood swings and hormonal imbalances. This article , from Mind Body Green, urges people to self-test for gluten intolerance by removing gluten from the diet for a period of at least two to three weeks, and then reintroducing it. You should monitor how you're feeling throughout the entire process with the use of a journal. If you find that symptoms dissipate or arise with the removal and reintroduction of gluten, then you may want to consider adopting a gluten-free diet.

But, gluten-free products are SO expensive, and I'm on a budget! Can I still do it? The answer is yes!