I promised an old co-worker of mine from Free The Children that I would address the issue of gluten, what the big deal is and how to transition into a more gluten free lifestyle. So Elysia this blog is for you!
Q: Why is gluten so bad for you and how can I eat a more predominantly gluten free diet?
I got asked this question A LOT when I was working in the digestive health clinic. What’s the big deal about the big bad “G.” Well let’s break this down. So gluten is the protein composite found in any foods processed from wheat and related grains, including barley, rye and even oats. It’s the part of the bread that gives it that doughy, spongy, elastic texture to hold and bind it together. Imagine what that “doughy, spongy elastic texture” is doing to your intestines! Hello Buddha belly rumble bum!
Gluten sensitivity is actually an “autoimmune disease that creates inflammation throughout the body, with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints, digestive tract and more.” So it actually affects more than just the digestive system.
The Dangers of Gluten
What most people don’t know is that gluten can have serious health implications and cause a whole whack load of GI distress, along with many other side effects. One recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with diagnosed, undiagnosed, and “latent” celiac disease or gluten sensitivity had a higher risk of death, mostly from heart disease and cancer. Crazy!
You don’t have to be diagnosed with celiac to have serious health problems and complications from eating gluten. People who are sensitive to gluten or have an allergy may experience after eating gluten (which can occur immediately, days or even weeks later): gas, bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, internal gut inflammation even diarrhea— the body’s way of trying to rid a substance that it does not agree with us. Interestingly enough, almost 99% of the people who have a problem with gluten are not even aware of it!
We, as humans, cannot properly digest the gluten period. The damage gluten can cause may occur slowly but for most people it will surely over time cause health problems. If your toxic load is full to the max, will be even more likely to have difficulties with gluten.
Where Can I Find Gluten?
Gluten can be found in and is not limited to breads, grains and cereals including: wheat, oats, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticale, couscous and so much more. But this bad boy is sneaky! It can also be hidden in places you wouldn’t even suspect it. Gluten can also be found in soup mixes, salad dressings, sauces, even cosmetics such as lipstick, stamps, Play-Doh, certain vitamins and pharmaceuticals. This shiz-nat is everywhere!
The Good News?
Okay so going gluten free is scary and intimidating for some people, but the good news is there are loads of alternatives to be found in nearly any health food store, and in many grocery store chains including Loblaws, FreshCo, Sobeys, No Frills, Metro and Food Basics.
I myself am gluten intolerant and discovered I also have an allergy to wheat in particular, which is a very common food allergen. I had suspected wheat as an allergy for years but was finally able to get confirmation when I took a food allergy test, which tested for over 96 food items. Along with wheat, I also discovered I had a mild allergy to potatoes and peanuts, also very common allergens.
Gradually Wean Off
If you’re trying to get off of gluten, try gradually weaning yourself off instead of quitting cold turkey. This may make an easier transition and leave you less likely to cravings. And don’t worry, there is no nutrition that you will be missing by cutting out gluten.
Nutrient dense and tasty alternatives to gluten include: brown rice, quinoa, millet, amaranth, corn, buckwheat, chickpeas and coconut. You can find these gluten free grains as flours to bake with, pastas, crackers and even breads. The availability of gluten free products is fairly readily available today now that people are becoming so aware.
Focusing less on the breads and pastas gives you the opportunity to focus on more of the good stuff that most of us actually lack in our diet. We should ideally be focusing more on whole foods including: nuts, seeds, fresh fruits & vegetables, legumes, beans and lean protein such as eggs, chicken and fish.
Go for brown rice cakes topped with almond butter, apples dipped in cinnamon, carrots & celery with hummus, raw trail mix loaded with unsalted raw pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and raisins. These gluten free snacks will keep you full, satisfied and won’t promote bloating and gas.
What do you have to lose by trying gluten free? Probably about 10 pounds of extra unwanted weight, no more bloated belly and not so full of hot air!
Not sure if your gluten sensitive or allergic? Get to the bottom of it with a simple and yet very effective food allergy test.