Today I want to talk about Gluten as recently it has become a popular topic for discussion and debate everywhere. Nowadays in every shop and supermarket we can see some variety of gluten-free products. It has become very “trendy” to try a gluten-free diet and, as a result, gluten-free products are a huge business at the moment. It seems to me that the food industry has found a successful replacement for fat-free and low-fat products which are slowly coming out of fashion after creating many health issues and problems. The gluten free food industry is benefiting from $3.4 billion annually and planning to expand up to $24 billion by 2020. Therefore, it is so important to understand properly gluten and to know if you really need to go on a gluten-free diet and what this diet actually means! Otherwise, in a few years’ time, we will face another health crisis such as the one we are facing years of eating fat-free food.
But talking to many people I have realised that the majority of them do not really understand what a gluten-free diet is about and why they may need to follow it. Let’s have a look.
Gluten is a family of proteins that are found mainly in wheat, rye, barley and oats. And, of course, it is present in all baked foods, bread, pasta, many cereals, sauces, salad dressings, soups, beers, food colouring and many others. Due to its ability to glue, gluten has been used in many personal care products as well. But why has gluten become such an issue? And why have people in the past been eating bread and pasta for generations and yet never faced this issue? The reason is that wheat is not the same today as it used to be. Modern wheat is completely different from the wheat people ate back in the past.
First of all, due to mass production, in the 60s wheat with a much greater yield was developed through cross-breeding and genetic manipulations. This changed the nutrient composition and physical properties of the plant.
Additionally, it is processed very differently nowadays as well. After the separation of the nutritious components of the grain (the bran and germ) away from the endosperm (the starchy part), the wheat received by consumers is depleted in nutrients.
Furthermore, the method of food preparation has also been modified dramatically. New technologies allow a huge amount of refined wheat to be created but at a low cost. The process that was used before, which included steps like soaking, sprouting, fermenting and baking with low rise yeasts, are not in use any longer. Now we eat bread that has been bleached and baked with quick rise yeasts.
At the end of the day we are dealing with a completely different protein that is not well recognised by our body and is very difficult to digest. For example, it has been shown that modern wheat contains 19-28% less Zinc, Copper, Iron and Magnesium than the wheat before 1967(Fan MS et al, Evidence of decreasing mineral density in wheat grain over the last 160 years; J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2008).
So, the bottom line is THE WHEAT WE EAT TODAY IS GENETICALLY AND BIOLOGICALLY DIFFERENT AND IS POORLY TOLERATED BY THE HUMAN BODY.
Gluten intolerance used to only be associated with Celiac disease. This autoimmune condition occurs when an immune system doesn’t recognise certain gluten proteins and attack them as viruses or with pathogenic bacteria. At the same time the immune system attacks the gut lining, which causes huge inflammation, leaky gut and many other serious health conditions. About 1% of the population suffers from Celiac disease, but the real number is bigger as many people are misdiagnosed or not diagnosed at all. However, another condition called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity is very much on the rise at the moment with an estimated number of around 8%-10% of the population, and it keeps growing. Interestingly, many people may have certain symptoms of gluten sensitivity and simply do not realise it. So, what are the symptoms of gluten sensitivity that everyone should be aware off. Let’s have a look!
Many different studies have established a profound link between gluten and neurological dysfunctions such as:
- Depression and Anxiety
- Migraines and headaches
- Mood swings
Gluten has also been shown to effect intestinal absorption and also damage other organs that connected to the digestive process. This is causing mineral and vitamin deficiency and causing conditions like:
- Leaky gut
- Chronic fatigue
- Irritable bowel syndrome linked to gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea
- Lactose intolerance and other food intolerances
- Acid reflux disease (GERD)
However, there are some symptoms that are less associated with gluten and can easily be missed or misinterpreted. For example:
- Fatigue due to malabsorption of essential nutrients.
- Joint and muscle pain caused by the inflammation process initiated by gluten.
- Hormonal imbalance (irregular menstrual cycles, infertility, weight gain or loss) as gluten effects a neuro-hormonal system.
- Frequent colds and viral infections as a result of a low immune system.
- Skin rashes and even painful blisters that can appear on the arms, elbows, face and body caused by inflammation under the top layer of skin.
- Dental issues due to a low level of Calcium because of a malabsorption issue.
As you can clearly see, GLUTEN SENSITIVITY CAUSES MANY DIFFERENT HEALTH PROBLEMS. The best way to test it is to try a REAL gluten-free diet for at least two weeks. But you need to do it RIGHT! This means stay away from any form or shape of gluten, even in the smallest quantities. Prepare for this experiment, list all the products and foods that may contain gluten including hidden forms like in some sauces and soups. Do your research and have a list of alternative products you can include in your diet like buckwheat and quinoa. Please, be careful when you buy gluten-free products in shops. Gluten-free processed food is not the answer, it is still processed food with many harmful additives and preservatives. Many gluten-free products are made from refined products and do not have many micronutrients that are essential for our body. So, the best solution will be to cook at home from raw gluten-free ingredients. The menu planner can be a very helpful tool during this period of time. If you feel better after two weeks on this diet and perhaps some of your symptoms start to go away, you may want to continue the diet a bit longer to make sure it is a gluten dependent effect.
Many people see some differences in their conditions and try to avoid eating wheat after the experiment or at least reduce the amount of gluten in their diet. But the decision is yours! In any case this experiment will be a very positive experience for you as you will start to listen to your body more carefully, notice some changes and reactions to certain foods or its absence, learn new recipes and upgrade your cooking skills! So, ARE YOU READY FOR AN EXPERIMENT?
I will be very happy to hear the results of your experiment with a gluten-free diet and I would be happy to assist you in any way.
As usual, I look forward to receiving your ever valuable questions, comments and feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org