March 15, 2017

Why Gluten Free?

Why Gluten-free?


This has nothing to do with the so called gluten-free bandwagon. Too many books have misinformed people thinking that if they are not celiac, eating gluten-free is bad for them.


What is Gluten?


Gluten is a mixture of proteins naturally found in certain grains such as wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, kamut and einkorn, rye, barley and triticale. Gluten actually means glue in Latin. The two main proteins in gluten are glutenin and gliadin. Gliadin is responsible for most of the negative health effects. When gluten is used to make bread, it gives the dough a glue-like consistency.


There are a few issues with modern-day gluten as it is not the same gluten as our grandparents ate.  First, it can be found everywhere. It is not just used for making breads or pasta anymore. Gluten is now used as a filler in medications; it holds meat substitutes together; and can even be found in personal care products. So we are exposed to it a lot more.

Second, scientists have changed wheat and these new hybrid strains contain entirely new forms of gluten not found in the original plants. This new modified gluten causes problems with our gut health and immune systems.


Not all grains contain gluten. Many are gluten-free such as sorghum, millet, brown rice, buckwheat, wild rice, amaranth, quinoa, corn (polenta) and teff. Oats are also gluten-free but can sometimes be contaminated during processing so always look for gluten-free oats.


How has Wheat/Gluten Changed?


Wheat today is completely different from the wheat are grandparents/ancestors ate. It is processed differently. It is now possible, thanks to new technology, to create large amounts of refined wheat cheaply. This technology has allowed us to separate the nutritious components of the grain (bran and germ) away from the endosperm.


Ancient grains were soaked, sprouted, and fermented. Bread was baked with slow rise yeast. There are a lot of health benefits to eating grains this way. Today, flour is bleached and bread is made with quick rise yeast. Many bread makers add extra gluten to give bread a more spongy texture.


We also used to eat wheat/gluten varieties such as Kamut and Einkorn (ancient grains). Most of the wheat grown today has been genetically manipulated. Modern wheat has a different nutrient and protein composition. Several studies have shown that modern wheat is less nutritious.


Why Go Gluten-Free?


Celiac Disease or Other Autoimmune Disorders

Those who suffer from autoimmune diseases experience immune system responses that damage the villi, a part of the small intestine. Villi helps you absorb the nutrients found in your food. Without them, you would become malnourished. If you experience frequent stomach pains and become gassy and bloated after eating gluten, you should consider seeing a doctor.


Eat Healthier

Many of the ancient grains are healthier for you than modern gluten. There is a misconception about gluten-free diets. Not all gluten-free alternatives are healthy, but neither are all gluten alternatives. Regardless of what you eat, you should always check food labels for cholesterol, high sodium and processed sugar.


Improved Digestion

The “glue-like” properties of gluten interfere with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients. This can impede proper digestion. This undigested gluten can trigger an immune response. Your immune system basically attacks the lining of your small intestine causing diarrhea or constipation, nausea and abdominal pain. Over time, your small intestine becomes damaged and inflamed leading to malabsorption of nutrients, nutrient deficiencies, anemia, osteoporosis and other health problems.


Clear Skin Issues

Gluten is kind of hard to avoid these days since it is put in everything including shampoos, cosmetics, filler in medications and toothpaste. The connection between the gut and skin have been studied. A study done in Maryland showed that the inflammatory response that begins in the gut as a response to gluten spreads to other parts of the body.


When gluten cannot be properly digested, these large protein molecules enter the bloodstream where the immune system treats them as foreign invaders and initiates an attack causing inflammation. This immune response also triggers the release of insulin which causes a rise in hormone levels which can lead to acne and other skin issues.