By now, you probably know someone who is living a gluten free lifestyle. Recent studies show that 15 to 20 percent of consumers are seeking gluten-free choices, and this number is rapidly rising. So, what is this all about? Should you be gluten free?
Well, lets start off by understanding that the S.A.D. (Standard American Diet) has drastically changed over the past 60 years, which has had an impact on our health due to the poor quality, more highly processed foods that we are now consuming. Grains, which typically contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, etc., are not the same as they used to be. Grains have been promoted as a health food in the USA for decades, but now studies are showing something has gone a-rye, pun intended, with grains.
Commercial grains are no longer processed in the “traditional” way, through fermentation, thus allowing the good bacteria and enzymes to aid in the digestive process. Instead, they come from poor quality, leached soils, are genetically modified (which has been proven to have adverse affects on the digestive system), and are highly processed and chemically treated.
Moreover, our bodies simply have not evolved to a point of being able to properly digest the gluten protein, since man has been consuming grains for only about 10,000 years, which is a flash in the evolutionary pan when compared to our two million year existence. So, according to Lauren Cordain, author of “The Paleo Diet,” grains, in general, are not the best choice for human consumption.
Gluten intolerance is estimated to affect nearly 40 percent of the population. Many people are intolerant and don’t even know it. Unless you have been diagnosed with Celiac disease, which is a genetic digestive disorder that is triggered by the consumption of gluten, you likely don’t know whether or not you are sensitive to gluten. Signs of gluten intolerance include stomach bloating, pain, discomfort, constipation or diarrhea, headaches, brain fog, weight gain, anxiety, and even depression.
Besides taking a blood test and intestinal culture for Celiac, the only real way to know whether or not you have a gluten intolerance is to go completely off gluten for 30 days. This is not easy to do as gluten is in almost everything these days. It’s in many sauces, dressings, processed and prepared foods, restaurant foods, etc.
However, it can be done. And, from what I have seen as a nutrition coach, it can be absolutely life-changing for people who give it a try. I have found that most people who remove gluten from their diet feel better in general, because not only are they removing the molecule that triggers an unhealthy cascade of reactions in their bodies, they are also eating more whole foods, such as lean proteins, fruits, and veggies, and less processed foods.
Once a person has been completely gluten free for a month, we can do a test to slowly add in gluten to see how they do, and typically the reaction is the same. The symptoms come back, which is enough proof to stay away from it. The challenge, however, is that because the gluten protein alerts the bodies immune system to initiate and autoimmune reaction, even the smallest exposure of gluten can set off a response that has profound and lasting. So people who make the decision to avoid it must be strict in their choices.
Other countries, especially in Europe, are also making the shift to gluten free living. It’s not just happening in America. It is a shift that is being led by consumers themselves. This trend has not been led by doctors, but rather, individuals seeking a better way of living. This is powerful. and shows our medical providers may be missing the mark when it comes to the impact diet and lifestyle has on our health.
If you are thinking about going gluten free here are some resources for you:
Books: “Wheat Belly,” “The Paleo Diet,” “Dangerous Grains,” and the magazine “Living Without.”
Local: The Celiac MD; Dr. Burkhart, Napa; Whole Foods; EA’s Crossfit (Paleo Program).
For more resources and support for a gluten free lifestyle feel free to visit my Facebook page at Facebook.com/bodytalksonoma.
Yours in healthy living,