What’s all this Hype about Gluten Free?
Everywhere you look these days there is another product stating it is gluten free and you have probably asked yourself ‘is gluten that big a deal’ and ‘what really is gluten and how does it relate to me’.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), barley, rye, malts and triticale. It can also be found in many other ‘processed’ foods as it is used as a food additive in the form of a flavoring, stabilizing or thickening agent, often as “dextrin”. Additionally, a gluten-free diet may exclude oats, however the medical field is divided on whether oats are an allergen or if there is coross-contamination during the milling process by other allergens. A gluten-free diet is the only medically accepted treatment for celiac disease.
The term gluten-free is generally used to indicate foods containing a supposed harmless level of gluten rather than a complete absence. The exact level at which gluten is harmless is widely debated. A recent medical study concluded that consumption of less than 10 mg of gluten per day is unlikely to cause any problems, although research is still in its infancy. Regulation of the label gluten-free varies widely by country too. In the United States, the FDA issued regulations in 2007 limiting the use of “gluten-free” in food products to those with less than 20 ppm of gluten (this amount represents the current international standard).
How do I know If I’m Gluten Sensitive?
It is important to note that if you really feel you have a serious problem that could involve the implication of gluten, see your family doctor first to get tested before you start a Gluten Free Diet. After you are on a gluten-free diet, there is no way to test for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, and having a medical diagnosis can be important for your health and make things much easier for you in the long run. With that said, there are over 300 different symptoms associated with gluten sensitivity ranging from:
~digestive issues (diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, reflux, weight gain, weight loss, bloating, abdominal pain…)
~mental health issues (depression, anxiety, mood swings, behavior problems…)
~inflammation issues (aching joints, bones, muscles, increased asthma…)
~neurological issues (migraines, vertigo, tingling, numbness, weird sensations…)
~a wide variety of malnutrition-related and other issues (fatigue, brain fog, canker sores, osteoporosis, infertility, enamel problems, missed periods, painful periods, night sweats, thyroid problems, frequent infections…)
How Gluten Affects the Body
About one percent of the population has celiac disease, an autoimmune disease associated with high gluten sensitivity. When people suffering from celiac’s eat gluten, it triggers an immune response where the body attacks itself, eventually destroying the villi of the intestines and making it difficult for your body to absorb the nutrients you require. Fortunately, a very strict gluten free diet has been show to almost always leads to a complete recovery. However, in rare cases, usually those that have been left untreated for an extremely long time, permanent nerve damage in the intestinal walls can result. Celiac disease can also lead to many other debilitating, even deadly conditions, from other autoimmune diseases to cancer.
It is interesting to note about 12 percent of the population has elevated antibodies in their blood indicating some form of immune response to eating gluten, but they do not present with the classic damage to the intestines that is used to define celiac disease. Some of these people also have severe and wide-ranging symptoms. A recent study showed that even without the damaged villi of the so-called “gold standard” for celiac disease, those who have these elevated antibodies to gluten still have an elevated risk of death if they do not go on a gluten free diet.
Some medical practitioners, primarily in the alternative therapy field think that a much higher percent of the population experience negative health impacts (ranging from digestive problems to fatigue) from eating gluten. Grains are very hard to digest to begin with, and with advancing agriculture and through selective breeding in the seed industry, the gluten content in the grains we eat has drastically increased. But almost everyone agrees that more research is needed to understand the full spectrum of gluten sensitivity.
Again, if you think you may have a serious issue please see your family doctor before undertaking any new diet.
Do you suffer from any of these symptoms:
~gas and bloating
Try a gluten-free diet for 2 weeks and see how you feel. Better yet try the Paleo Diet which is naturally gluten-free and discover how much energy you have always had but your body was being held back by gluten. Remember it is not as easy as omitting bread and pasta out of your diet, gluten finds its way in to so many of our day to day products so be sure to read labels carefully, and sorry boys… Beer contains lots of gluten.
Make a journal of how you are feeling now, what you are eating and then start your Paleo diet, continue that journal and make sure you are noting down your moods and physical health and energy levels.
To make food choices easy on yourself get a copy of Paleo Cookbooks and discover a wonderful variety of delicious, healthy recipes.