What’s the big deal about gluten?
Gluten is in more than you think, and has a bigger effect than you might realize.
I know from personal experience there is merit to the gluten hype. Our family saw a change in our health for the better after removing gluten from our diet. But, what is it and why has it received so much attention?
Gluten is a protein found in grains, especially wheat. When mixed with water it becomes like an adhesive giving baked goods a desirable texture. In fact in Latin, gluten means glue. When you think of it that way one may be able to see how eating too much bread would tend to back things up a bit.
Simply put, the wheat we eat today is not what our ancestors ate. Wheat hybridization (genetic manipulation) started in the 1960’s and plays a big role in the decline of nutrition. Glysophate, which is the most widely used herbicide in the states, gravely affects our health. The process of milling and baking has changed over the years as well, from quality and nutrition to convenience and the bottom dollar.
There are at least four disorders that are rooted in having an adverse reaction gluten. When left unchecked, these disorders can lead to severe health problems. Here is a quick rundown.
Celiac disease is a genetic autoimmune disorder where the small intestines are damaged from the consumption of gluten. Celiac patients not only have to be careful about eating gluten but also cross contamination in restaurants, and everyday items that contain gluten like play-doh and shampoo. Some symptoms of Celiac disease include weight loss, chronic diarrhea, constipation, bloating and abdominal pain. A blood test can determine the presence of Celiac.
Wheat allergy symptoms include tightness of throat, diarrhea, wheezing, coughing, asthma and congestion. Symptoms usually manifest quickly and can be mild to severe. A Skin prick or blood test can verify an allergy.
People with gluten intolerance can suffer from bloating, abdominal pain, tiredness, joint and muscle pain and more. It is less severe than Celiac disease but should still be taken seriously.
Gluten sensitivity means someone can be sensitive to other grains as well as wheat such as barley and rye. Symptoms include nausea, skin irritation, brain fog, fatigue, gas and bloating. There is no official test for Gluten sensitivity rather an elimination diet is recommended. Keeping a food journal is recommended to record not only what you eat but how you feel.
If you have a health concern that you are not quite sure of the root cause, I would highly recommend taking gluten out of your diet for a few weeks to see if your health improves. I have seen brain fog, digestion, mood swings, eczema, heart burn, hyperactivity in kids, obesity, potty accidents (after completed potty training), and arthritis greatly improved, all by cutting out gluten.
Some of the gluten grains to look for are Wheat, Wheat germ, Rye, Semolina, Couscous, Bulgar (Tabbouleh), Farina and more. The internet is loaded with information and I encourage you to do some research.
Almost every store carries GF (gluten free) items now and don’t forget to look in the freezer section where frozen breads and more are kept. Gluten can hide in unsuspecting places like canned soups and lunch meat but my personal goal was to cut out the main sources first.
When eating out we choose steak, grilled chicken, veggies, rice, salads with no croutons, soups etc. Many restaurants now have gluten free menus. The internet, libraries and bookstores are full of GF cookbooks and resources.
Remember, moderation is key. Eating a plethora of carbohydrates isn’t healthy whether they are gluten free or not. A balanced diet is encouraged that includes healthy meats if you are not a vegetarian, fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and healthy fats.
Lastly, if you feel your gut may be damaged by gluten (it is very likely) then enzymes, probiotics and fermented foods can be used to get you back on track. Kefir, Kombucha, Kimchi and raw Sauerkraut are all wonderful in helping to restore the good bacteria in the gut. These can be purchased or made at home!
I hope this helps in explaining the gluten trend and as always, I encourage you to research and not just take my word for it.
Brooke DeLong, N.D.
About the Author
Brooke DeLong has a degree in Naturopathy and is passionate about educating and inspiring people. She is a wife and mom to four awesome kids.