Gluten – What is it all about?

Gluten is all the talk these days!  Should you cut it out of your diet or not?  Some people think that it is a trend and some people have direct proof that cutting it out of their diet or their kids’ diets makes a huge difference in their lives.

I am not here to tell anyone to stay away from gluten, I just wanted to try to clarify a few things for people who may not understand what this stuff called gluten is all about.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barely and rye and it is found in many, many foods that you would not even think of unless you were an avid label reader!  Gluten is in pasta, cookies, cakes and pasta…..the very foods that many of us grew up on and this is one reason why it is so difficult for some people to give up gluten.

There are some people, a very small population, who have to eat a gluten-free diet in order to survive.  These people who get very sick when they eat gluten are individuals with celiac disease.  Celiacs have an autoimmune condition and when they eat gluten it damages their villi (the hair-like projections within the small intestine that help to absorb vitamins and nutrients).  When the villus deteriorates or flattens, celiacs can show symptoms such anemia, irritability, weight loss, stomach pains, and other gastrointestinal complications.

 

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may want to go to the doctor to get checked to see if you have celiac disease or IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) which sometimes gets confused with celiac disease.  Elimination diets and food journaling can help reveal whether such a sensitivity exists:

  • anemia
  • skin rash
  • mouth sores
  • dental and bone disorders
  • tingling in the legs and feet
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • muscle cramps
  • flatulence
  • constipation
  • mucus in the stool

So what are the foods allowed if you are highly intolerant to gluten or a  celiac?  Here is a list of foods you can eat:

  • beans
  • fresh eggs
  • fresh meats, fish, poultry
  • fruits and vegetables
  • most dairy products
  • amaranth
  • arrowroot
  • buckwheat
  • corn
  • cornmeal
  • flax
  • millet
  • quinoa
  • rice
  • sorghum
  • soy
  • tapioca
  • teff

If you are trying to go gluten-free, the following is a list of food items to avoid unless it is labeled gluten-free (yes, it is quite long):

  • beer
  • breads
  • cakes and pies
  • candies
  • cookies and crackers
  • croutons
  • french fries
  • gravies
  • imitation meats and seafood
  • matzo
  • pastas
  • processed luncheon meats
  • salad dressings
  • barley
  • rye
  • tricale
  • wheat
  • bulgur
  • durum flour
  • farina
  • graham flour
  • kamut
  • semolina
  • spelt

You probably noticed that the first ten items on the list are foods that we all should keep at a minimum anyway if we are truly focused on fueling our bodies with wholesome and nutritious food.  What I try to teach my clients and customers is to make sure you add a lot of color in your diet as in lots of deep greens, reds and yellows (such as in veggies and fruits) then add in some lean proteins and good fats.

So, should you go gluten-free?  That is a question you will have to answer for yourself.  I do personally know people who have children who used to have behavior issues and once they removed the gluten, artificial colors, sugars and processed foods out of their diet, they were able to see a complete turnaround in behavior and in their school workfork.  Studies have shown that gluten has an affect on the brain with regards to behavior so if you want more focus and clarity, you may want to play around with taking gluten out of your diet.

My family has been slowly moving in the direction of going gluten-free so if you would like any help in this area, I would be glad to share information or if you have experiences you would like to share with me, I would love to listen!

Source:  mayoclinic.org;  Grain Brain by David Perlmutter