I'm sure you know at least a handful of friends by now that are "Gluten-free". Am I right? Nowadays, "gluten-free" is definitely a buzz word we hear a lot. Everyone seems to be going gluten-free and for good reason.
Did you know that more than 55 diseases have been linked to gluten?
Or that 1 in 30 people have a gluten sensitivity and don't even know it?
That means that YOU could be walking around with a gluten sensitivity that's making you sick!
This reminds me of my good friend and detox partner Jill Hoffman's story. Several years ago before Jill became a health coach, she actually worked with her own health coach. After her coach recommended that she take out gluten from her diet, her life changed. She had more energy, her brain was clearer, her digestion improved AND she lost those last pesky pounds that would never budge.
I seriously hear stories like this time and time again.
So, if you still eating whole wheat bread and whole grain pasta and think you're doing yourself a favor, then keep reading.
What's the deal with gluten?
Gluten is a mixture of proteins commonly found in wheat products such as bread, pasta, and cereal and it's used mostly as a binding agent and provides that doughy texture we love so much.
3 Reasons To Avoid Gluten If You Are Sensitive:
1. Gluten sensitivities can lead to auto-immune disease. Gluten can cause an auto-immune response in your system where your body attacks itself. This happens because the protein in gluten resembles human tissue. So, when your immune system is trying to attack the foreign gluten invader, it might accidentally attack your other organs or tissues such as your thyroid or even your brain. There is massive research that connects the increase of auto-immune disease in people with the rise of gluten-containing foods.
2. Gluten is often responsible for resistant weight loss, poor sleep and skin conditions such as acne and eczema. Gluten causes an inflammatory response in your body which, over time, becomes chronic. Chronic inflammation, whether due to stress, food sensitivities or environmental toxins, almost always show up as weight and skin problems.
3. Gluten messes with our brain. Because gluten is hard to digest, our gut gets full of undigested food particles...yuck! This can lead to an imbalance of bacteria (dysbiosis) and eventually lacerations in our gut lining (leaky gut). Also, yeast feed on the undigested particles and so we can develop issues like candida, which can be extremely problematic. What does this have to do with your brain? Well, your brain and gut are very intimately connected especially when it comes to your mood. About 90% of your serotonin (a.k.a. happy hormone) is produced in the gut. When you have all this chaos on in your gut, then your brain is not getting enough serotonin, and then you're feeling the "Monday Blues" every single day.
How do you know if you are sensitive to gluten?
Based on my research and experience's that I've had with clients, the best way to determine if you have a gluten sensitivity is to go through a strategic elimination diet. This is where you would remove the food you are challenging (gluten) for a period of time and then reintroduce it back or "challenge" the food to see how your body reacts. A few notes about this:
- Gluten is something that can stay in your system for a long time because it is a large protein. So, to really test it out, you may need to remove it for more than the usual 2-3 weeks, perhaps even a few months to really get it out of your system.
- Many people who are sensitive to gluten are often sensitive to other foods such as dairy because the proteins mimic each other. What this means is that if you only do an "elimination" for gluten, then you might not see much of a change because you're still eating dairy and other possible allergens. It's recommended to do a full elimination diet for best results.
Gluten Free: Yay or Nay?
I think it goes without saying, that if you know you're sensitive to gluten then you should definitely avoid it as much as possible, if not completely. In our modern "fast food" world it can be difficult if not impossible to be 100% gluten-free.
But, for most of us, eliminating 90-95% of gluten from our diets can have a dramatic effect on how we feel and our susceptibility to disease.
Once you get over the initial hump of "gluten withdrawal" and discover a whole new world of delicious foods that can give you the same satisfaction as a bowl of cereal (sans the gas and bloating), you will never want to go back.
If you find out that you are not sensitive to gluten, then you have more wiggle room. BUT, gluten is very hard to digest and because of all the issues I mentioned above, you can develop a sensitivity that can eventually lead to symptoms and disease.
So, my recommendation, is to either minimize it or eliminate gluten completely from your diet if you want to stay healthy and symptom free. You want to do this by adopting a whole foods diet that's rich in organic veggies and fruits, along with healthy fats, clean protein, and gluten-free grains, if tolerated. I highly caution you to be skeptical of the "gluten free" products out on the shelves. If you flip over the box and look at the list of ingredients, very often you'll find a large list of processed and sugary ingredients that do more harm than good.
Stick to real food and you're good to go!
What are your experiences with gluten? I want to hear the good, the bad and the ugly down in the comments below!
Resources: Amy Meyers, MD