A large number of people recently have been jumping on the gluten free band wagon why is this exactly? There has been huge hype surrounding gluten and the ill effects it has on us, especially on our digestive systems. Gluten is the Latin word for glue and this is exactly what it becomes when it is consumed. Gluten is most certainly glue like it and acts the same way in our intestines, forming a sticky indigestible substance which acts a nutrient inhibitor. More and more people are finding that they are gluten sensitive and are deciding to reduce their gluten intake or go gluten free all together. This does not necessarily mean that people without gluten sensitivity should go gluten free but it is almost a sure bet that this substance is still creating havoc within the body.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye. Gluten is found in numerous foods that contain mostly that of which are made from wheat primarily flour such as breads, pastas, pizzas, cakes, bagels and certain types of Asian noodles.
Why should we avoid gluten?
There are a number of ailments that is caused by the consumption of gluten this is due to gluten sensitivity and celiac disease. Gluten sensitivity is an autoimmune disease which creates inflammation throughout the entire body. Gluten sensitivity goes undiagnosed most of the time which means there are large concentrations of the American population around that are suffering needlessly. Most people are not aware that they are sensitive to gluten, the symptoms of gluten sensitivity often masks itself as other sicknesses and diseases, such as cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, migraines, osteoporosis, arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, anaemia, fatigue and a huge range of autoimmune diseases and has even been linked to autism in children. Around 1/3rd of the American population is sensitive to gluten and do not know it.
Wheat has changed
Currently modern wheat species contain a huge amount of gluten in comparison to its ancient ancestors, this is mostly through hybridization which is focused around selecting high yield species for breeding to yield a larger and more fruitful crop. Furthermore wheat is then bleached and created into flour which has all its vitamins and minerals stripped from it. This flour is used to create numerous commercial breads, and almost every imaginable junk food known to man.
What is celiac disease?
People with serious sensitivity to gluten suffer from celiac disease, which is an autoimmune disease that occurs when gluten triggers the body to start attacking Villi the tiny hairs that line the walls in the small intestine which is responsible for absorbing nutrients from food. Gluten can have extremely harmful effects on those who suffer from celiac disease and can sometimes even be fatal.
Won’t I miss out on valuable nutrients from avoiding gluten?
There have been dietary guidelines that state that avoiding gluten can make you deficient of vitamins, minerals and fiber. This simply is not true, some of the highest concentrations of vitamins, minerals and fiber are found in cruciferous vegetables, in fact so much so that in comparison completely dwarves that of gluten products such as wheat, barley, rye and oats. This sort of propaganda has been circulated by the bidding of agricultural interests in government for a very long time.
Why go gluten free?
Going gluten free is not for everyone, if you are in good health and have no noticeable ailments after consuming gluten or just in general you are probably fine to eat gluten based foods. But if you are a person that is looking to eat gluten based foods that has no sensitivities to gluten but is overweight and suffers from any other ailments, it would be a good start to stop eating gluten based foods. However there are tell tale signs that gluten may be a culprit when it comes to your health. As the vast majority of people whom are gluten sensitive or have undiagnosed celiac disease attribute their ill health to other factors as many of their symptoms are not often recognised as being a sign of gluten intolerance or celiac disease. These common symptoms may be anaemia, fatigue, weight gain, hypertension (high blood pressure), brain fog and migraines.
How to reduce gluten intake
During a normal day do your meals look like this: breakfast: eggs and toast, Lunch: ham sandwich, Dinner: Spaghetti. How often do we get stuck into patterns that are potentially ruining our health without us knowing about it, sometimes just cutting your carbohydrate intake from eating gluten based products can be extremely beneficial in losing weight and regaining energy and focus throughout the day. As many people are consuming far too much gluten cutting out a portion of your daily gluten intake will be beneficial.
How do I know if I am gluten sensitive?
If you would like to find out if you are gluten sensitive, take a break for 2-4 weeks from eating absolutely anything that contains gluten. This means reading all the labels of everything you buy from the store. Eliminate gluten from your diet for this period of time and see how this affects your body. If there are issues you know that you should not be consuming any gluten what so ever.
Foods to avoid
If you are going gluten free for 2-4 weeks there are a number of foods that you must avoid like the plague, the most obvious ones are:
- Wheat products
- Barley products
- Spelt products
- Asian noodles which are made from wheat (Hokkien noodles)
- Wraps made from wheat
- Fried foods
- Fast foods
- Junk food
- Bread and bread products
- Snack foods with gluten based coatings
- Packaged seasonings
Gluten free foods
There are plenty of gluten free alternative foods that look and taste a lot like your favorite foods such as bagels, sliced bread and croissants to name a few. There are several gluten free flours if you are seriously craving similar foods, however – these alternatives are most often than not higher in calories than regular processed white flour.
Go gluten free for a period of time and see how you feel – you might feel better or you might feel the same. It is always a good thing to listen to your body, because there is no better indicator.
Stay healthy and well!
Photo Credit: Dag Terje Filip Endresen