Lately, all the buzz these days seems to be about gluten and the big question: should I be gluten-free? Today I’ll review what all the fuss is about, beginning with what gluten is, and whether or not you should consider removing it from your diet (my answer might surprise you).
In a nutshell, gluten is the proteins found in wheat, barley, rye and triticale (a cross between rye and wheat). In simple terms, it acts as the glue to hold food together. Sadly, today gluten is found in a variety of foods even when it is not expected to be (i.e., oats, sauces).
Wheat, rye, and barley are the most common grains, and they have a significant amount of gluten. It seems like everything has one or more of these foods added to it to bulk it up or hold it together.
Most store-bought baked-goods, soups, cereals, salad dressing (what?!), pasta and sauces have gluten in them.
Rye is most commonly found in bread (including pumpernickel), beer made with rye and some cereals.
Barley may be found in food coloring, soups, beer, Brewer’s yeast and a variety of malt (milkshakes, malt extracts, malt vinegar, etc.)
The key to being a gluten detective, especially if you are trying to avoid it, is to read labels. They sneak gluten into all kinds of processed foods today. This is the main reason why I highly advocate unprocessed, home-cooked food; you know what you’re getting.
That depends on a few things. If you have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity, yes, going gluten-free is a must for you to feel better and be healthier. Celiac disease is serious and if left untreated can have dire consequences on your health and well-being.
Thankfully, only 1 percent of the population has this autoimmune disease that damages the small intestines. According to a 2006 study even fewer people have a diagnosed wheat allergy (.4 percent). According to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, about 18 million Americans have some non-celiac sensitivity to gluten.
Now, let’s say you don’t have celiac or any sensitivity to gluten; should you remove gluten from your diet? In most cases, there is no need. Wheat, rye, and barley provide a lot of nutritional value like vitamins and minerals, not to mention adding fiber to the diet. Gluten-free foods often are often low in nutritional value and are highly-processed.
“I feel better when I’m gluten-free.” Often when we go the gluten-free route, we eliminate the desserts, sweets and other unhealthy items from our diet and replace them with fruits, veggies, and other healthful foods. We start to lose weight and feel better in our bodies and attribute it to removing the gluten. In reality, it’s because you removed the “crap” from your diet and added in better nutrition.
“But they say that gluten is inflammatory.” Gluten in and of itself is not inflammatory. If you eat whole and cracked grains, you will not see an inflammatory response in the gut (or body for that matter) unless you have celiac, are sensitive to gluten, or have other types of autoimmune diseases (such as rheumatoid arthritis).
It becomes a problem when wheat, rye, and barley are refined and ground into flour with the outer shell and germ removed. Unfortunately, much of the baked goods in the market are prepared with this form of flour because it’s cheap to use. When you ingest highly-processed grains, they rapidly convert to glucose, thereby causing a rapid spike in blood sugar. This spike promotes the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGEP), which when combined with the sugars, causes a pro-inflammatory response in the body.
So, going gluten-free should be a personal decision. Don’t rely upon “so-called” experts to tell you that you must remove gluten to be healthy. That might be true for them but may not be for you. Run your own experiment to see if going gluten-free makes you feel better. However, if you want to find out for sure if you are gluten sensitive don’t remove gluten before being tested. The tests will be incorrect and a waste of time and money. Get tested first and once you know the results, decide what you will do.
At the present time, I am not gluten-free. I do eat gluten, but it is limited to fermented products (I.e., sourdough bread) and food that I prepared at home. I like using Einkorn wheat flour, as it is an ancient grain. In fact, it was one of the first plants to be domesticated and cultivated, and some (including me) find it easy to digest. You can find this flour in some health food stores and on Amazon. Einkorn.com is a reliable resource to learn more.
There are times throughout the year when I will remove gluten from my diet. I plan on doing so this Spring during a comprehensive elimination diet. If you are interested in learning more about my journey and join me in the elimination diet – fill out your information below, and I’ll be in touch.
So, as you can see – there is no clear-cut answer to the question, should I go gluten-free? Listen to your body, pay attention to the signs, research as much as you can from reliable resources, and do some experimenting. You will find your answer.
Corrie Ann Gray is a writer, researcher, coach, and cookie enthusiast who lives in Los Angeles, CA. She started the Clean Body Project to share all of her knowledge and resources with others who are interested in running their own experiment into clean holistic living. She is also known as The Renaissance Soul Writer at www.corrieanngray.com.