It’s no doubt that you have heard of being Gluten Free or of Gluten Free products. I feel that the “popularity” of gluten free has sky rocketed over the last decade or so. Why do you think that is? I believe that due to the research and understanding of what gluten is and what it does to our bodies has helped bring it to a forefront in the diet and nutrition world. Is it a fad diet? Honestly…yes, I think that for some people it is. If you happen to come across the entire section dedicated to Gluten Free products in the grocery store (which by the way, these really are not much healthier for you but I will talk more about that later) a person would believe that this is a better way to eat and even possibly lose weight. I feel that some people may look at being gluten free as a way to lose weight or perhaps something to try out, like the Atkins diet. This is the farthest thing from my reality in being gluten free.
Before I go any further let me remind you that I am just a normal person, battling an autoimmune disease and fighting her way through it. I am NOT a doctor or a dietitian but I do have an opinion based on research and this is what I want to share with you. As with any change in your diet, especially a drastic one, please please please consult with your physician. Ok, now that we have that out there here’s my take.
What is Gluten and why it is NOT just a fad for me?
To keep it basic, Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a mixture of proteins found in wheat and related grains, including barley, rye, oat, and all their species and hybrids (such as spelt, kamut, and triticale). It gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture. Gluten is obviously in breads, pastas, and the like but it is even found in toothpastes, shampoos, and it is the glue that holds meat substitutes together. Scientists were able to deaminate gluten which allows it to be dissolved into liquids and other products that didn’t previously contain gluten, like lunch meat and shampoo. This means that we are not only eating a different kind of gluten than our ancestors ate, we are eating and being exposed to way more of it ¹ . Need I even mention the vast array of options when it comes to fast food restaurants that are oozing gluten out the front door. So when you say to me, “My grandmother or great grandmother made bread or biscuits every day or week and they were just fine”, luckily for them they lived in a less hybridized and modified time.
Celiac disease is by far the most well known and most serious gluten-intolerant disease. A person suffering from celiac is when gluten triggers an immune response that is not normal. This damages the insides of the small intestine and prevents it from properly absorbing the nutrients from foods. Here’s the thing, more than 55 diseases have been linked to gluten sensitivity and 1 in 133 people has celiac disease. To top that off, an estimated 99% of people who have either celiac disease or gluten sensitivity are never diagnosed¹. These are just the numbers of the known disease and cases, not the number of being on a spectrum of possibility. So this brings me back to our ancestors, poor things may have had their own troubles but just did not know what it was or what to do.
A very long and technical story short, for those of us with gluten sensitivity, the microvilli² in our intestines becomes damaged decreasing our ability to absorb nutrients and allowing the walls of our intestines to become leaky. Imagine if you will, a microfiber car wash mitt. You know the one…
When washing your car with this “handy” helper you use smooth sudsy water that properly does the job. Imagine now that you dip the mitt in a bucket of glue instead of the sudsy water. Who washes their car with glue? No one! The glue will eventually destroy the mitt and cause it to not do it’s job properly.The finger like extrusions on the mitt, much like the microvilli in our small intestines, work wonderfully when not glued together or damaged.
Once we stop absorbing the gluten we can start to repair the small intestine and build up that wall again to stop the leaky gut. If you recall from previous posts, 80% of our immune system is in our intestines. If this doesn’t show a link between diet and autoimmunity I don’t know what does.
Beware: The Gluten Free Aisle
It’s true, most grocery stores now have Gluten Free aisles and if they don’t have at least one dedicated section, they have the products somehow marked to stand out. Just because it is labeled “Gluten Free” does not mean that it is health food. A prepackaged, processed, and boxed up gluten free cookie is still a cookie. In fact, it may even be worse for you because it is my understanding that these products have more added sugars than non-gluten free products and can lead to a higher risk of diabetes. All I am saying is that if you think you may have a gluten sensitivity or know you do, make smart choices and try your best to eat the most natural and healthful foods available! Fruits, veggies, and grass fed meats is where it’s at!
Again, these are just my findings and opinions I have formed. Just wanting to share the knowledge that has been given to me.