I’m sure you may have noticed that the terms gluten and gluten-free are floating around everywhere these days. You’ve probably seen your fair share of “Gluten Free” labels at the grocery store and increasingly at restaurants and bakeries. But maybe you are still wondering what the gluten buzz is all about, so let’s start with defining this mystery term. Gluten is the protein that helps bind bread, pasta, and desserts to create a denser product. It is naturally found in wheat, barley, and rye but is also added to many, many unsuspecting foods to create a thicker consistency. The term gluten in Latin actually means glue. Let that sink in for a moment.
Those who have an autoimmune condition called celiac disease, cannot process gluten and consuming a miniscule amount can lead to an array of gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, nausea, stomach discomfort, vomiting, and progressive weight loss. To break it down further without getting too scientific, those with celiac disease experience a deterioration in the villi of the small intestine. Villi are hair-like projections that absorb nutrients necessary in nourishing the body and sustaining its energy. There are a variety of different symptoms that may point to celiac disease such as tingling in the legs and feet, mouth sores, skin rash, anemia, infertility or recurrent miscarriages, depression, and anxiety to name a few. In order to be diagnosed with celiac disease, one must go through a series of testing, although this sneaky condition may go undetected in some. Celiac disease is hereditary and those with a family history are at a higher risk of developing the condition. Celiac disease affects 1% of the American population, comprising of 3 million Americans.
Celiac Disease runs in my family, although I’ve been tested for the condition and the results were negative. I have experienced my fair share of symptoms from consuming gluten which leads me to believe that I am gluten sensitive. This means that I have symptoms mirroring those with CD but I have no intestinal damage as of now, and no antibodies are present in my blood. Non-celiac gluten sensitivity affects roughly 6% of the American population and is on the rise and real. I promise you that the “gluten free” craze is not a trend or fad diet, and is here to stay.
Gluten sensitivity is so prevalent and on the rise today because wheat is being slipped into almost every food that is processed and not whole. The food industry is a business after all and gluten is produced plentifully and inexpensively. Some foods you may be surprised to find gluten in include chocolate, gravy, broth, dressings, and most snack foods to name a few. We are consuming more and more gluten regularly and our bodies are not able to process this protein in such abundance. Antibiotics can affect the digestion of gluten as well as any gut related issues where digestion is compromised.
My suggestion for anyone experiencing digestive issues or any of the symptoms listed above, is to try an elimination diet where gluten is removed from your diet precisely for two weeks. After the two weeks are over, add gluten back into your diet and very carefully monitor your body’s response to it, including your mental health and mood. That should give you a very good idea as to whether or not the gluten should go!
I am not a gluten hater by the way. And I am not deeming it as unhealthy or problematic for all. My family loves to eat pasta and bread, and I gladly serve it to them since they don’t have any issues with it. But let me admit, recently I spent a week feeling carefree and indestructible and decided to indulge in the most delicious Key Lime pie, cinnamon rolls, pizza, and bread. My body quickly responded with a smackdown and a heinous case of gluten-induced eczema. Not so fun. So, I am now on high alert and making sure that gluten doesn’t even touch my plate.
If you are suspecting that you may be having an issue with gluten, there are incredibly tasty ways to trade it out and still enjoy cookies, cake, pasta, and pizza. Some great substitutions for baking with standard gluten-containing flour, include coconut flour, almond flour, arrowroot flour, and the list goes on. If you google, “best gluten-free recipes”, your browser will be flooded with an influx of delightful recipes and treats. It is now a lot easier to go gluten-free these days than you may think.
As a Health Coach, I encourage you to pay attention to the signs and symptoms that your body will so generously share with you and eliminate foods that put a damper on the quality of your life. We are all created incredibly unique and what might cause me a host of issues, might bring you joy and no issues at all. If you are experiencing food-related issues, I would love to work with you on finding a healthy approach to food that is sustainable and attainable. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and don’t forget to sign up for monthly updates below. Cheers to your health!
Gluten Free Living: Helping People to Eat Safely, Healthfully, and Happily by Rachel Begun, MS, RD
Who Should Avoid Gluten? by Integrative Nutrition, Inc.