"it's ok to eat gluten if you aren't Celiac"
"it's ok to eat a little bit if you are just sensitive to gluten and not Celiac"
"any product labeled "gluten-free" is not going to cause a reaction in a gluten intolerant person"
"gluten free products are healthier than gluten containing products"
The most controversial topic is that most people don't know what gluten is, where it's found, or why they should avoid it, yet they buy everything gluten free because that's what everyone else is doing!
Let me break this down a bit for you and set the record straight that GLUTEN FREE diets have a variety of very specific purposes for existing.
We have spent nearly 2.6 million years as hunter-gatherers, so gluten is a highly new substance to the human race and is very difficult for us to digest. To say that gluten can complicate your health is a severe understatement. It is poorly misunderstood by the general public as well as the medical community; rather it has been close to ignored by medical professionals despite the overwhelming evidence from innumerable studies that the consequences of gluten sensitivity can be lethal. Gluten can and will ruin your life.
What is Gluten Anyway?
Gluten is the protein substance found in numerous grains such as wheat (including durum, semolina, graham, spelt, kamut, and triticale), rye, teff, farro, and barley. It is typically also present in oats due to modern processing and contamination; for the same reasons of contamination it can also be found in buckwheat; and small amounts of gluten compounds are found in corn and corn starch. Gluten is the “foreign protein” that is an extremely common cause of allergies and sensitivities and can lead to physical, mental, and emotional disorders. Gluten has become a serious health problem for millions of people, not to mention the overconsumption of high carbohydrate grains (which contain gluten) that lead to diabetes and obesity. You can see already, it's not about it being popular to eat gluten free, it's about maintaining optimal health and a happy functioning body!
Gluten is made up of two proteins: gliadin (consisiting of 12 different fractions), and glutenin (which makes up about 80% of the protein content in most grains). Gluten is everywhere from breads and cereals, to soy sauce, energy bars, and salad dressings. Laws do not require labeling on all products, so going “gluten free” is not as simple as ordering gluten free, and buying gluten free items from your grocery store. You can eliminate 90% of the guess work by simply eliminating ALL GRAINS from the diet, and eating a whole foods, minimally processed diet.
Celiac, Gluten-Sensitivity, Gluten-Intolerant?
Gluten is most commonly associated with Celiac disease, which is termed “total villous atrophy of the small intestine.” In other words, total destruction of the digestive system! It is in your favor to do everything possible to support your digestive health, as 80% of your immune system cells are located here. However, many people do not appreciate gluten’s potential impact on countless individuals who are simply afflicted with nonceliac “gluten sensitivity”, which is every bit as lethal as celiac disease. Celiac disease is in fact one form of gluten sensitivity, while not all gluten sensitivity is celiac disease. Both conditions are autoimmune conditions that create inflammation and immune system defects throughout the body.
Because testing for any one of these things can vary, it is best to meet with your health care practitioner (and I suggest your nutritionist) to discuss your symptoms, your testing protocol, and your dietary plan of action. I am always available for individual consultations via Holistic Roots Nutrition.
How Does Gluten Affect your Body...
Gluten can affect your brain, heart, and kidneys, your extended nervous system, your moods, your immunological function, your digestive system, and even your musculoskeletal system. When it comes to the effects of gluten in the brain, exposure to gluten in a sensitive individual essentially shuts down blood flow to the frontal and prefrontal cortex; the parts of the brain that allow us to focus, manage emotional states, plan and organize, consider consequences to our actions, and our short term memory. Over time lesions can form from inflammation in this area and are associated with depression, anxiety, ADHD, and Alzheimer’s.
Even when gluten has been eliminated from the diet completely, this may not be sufficient for restoring intestinal integrity. A regimen of inflammatory reduction and healing of existing damage must be implemented for long term optimal results; although significant tangible results are typically seen much sooner (less bloating, more energy, less cravings, etc). Gluten can open the floodgate to other food sensitivities as well, but the good news is that once gluten has been eliminated other food sensitivities often diminish over time.
Of course I am always a resource should you have specific questions, but here are a few online resources for you to check out to further your understanding of your gluten exposure and tolerance.
Going Gluten Free: Slide Show
Life Without Gluten
Gluten Intolerance Group
What about the necessity of grains in our diets?
There really is no human dietary grain requirement, and grains/gluten contain anti-nutrient content, poor digestive capabilities, high omega-6 content, and mainly starch; as well as their allergy and sensitivity potential. There is little to no reason to include grains in your daily diet of anyone seeking optimal health.
If you choose to include grains in your diet, I suggest whole not processed non-gluten grains such as:
All things considered it is my underlying suggestion that gluten be completely eliminated from my clients’ diets whether we have proof of sensitivity or not. The negative effects highly outweigh the benefits, and are not worth the risk. I would also recommend that grains be kept to a minimum in daily consumption and are confined to brown or wild rice. I often get concerns about “what is left to eat”, and that statement alone is proof that a dietary makeover needs to occur. Your diet should mainly consist of vegetables, fruit, lean-organic- ethically raised animal products, fish, and whole healthy fats; that’s it!