Does maintaining a gluten-free lifestyle measure up to the promised hype of feeling better? That’s the million dollar question. Let’s take a look at this more closely and recap what we already know about gluten.
Gluten is a composite of storage proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, and oat. It gives elasticity to dough, helps it rise, keeps its shape and gives food a chewy texture. But here are a few reasons why gluten has earned a bad rap:
Gut Inflammation. The proteins in wheat are gut irritants which dig into the lining of the gut wall, causing amylase trypsin inhibitors to provoke an inflammatory immune response.
Increased Intestinal Permeability. The gut is a patrol system that regulates which nutrients may enter and which may not. Inflammation in the gut caused by gluten halts that process of control. It loosens the junctions between cells in the gut wall so too much stuff can pass through. Hence the name of “leaky gut.” This leak is thought to be the number one contributing factor to developing autoimmune disease.
Vulnerability to Gut Autoimmunity. Gliadin is a component of gluten and once it enters the system, the problems begin. The exposure to gliadin causes one’s body to form antibodies against its own tissue, thereby creating an avalanche of toxins. Gluten-related inflammation may also be a factor in the development of Crohn’s Disease.
Autoimmune Reactions. Studies have found wheat exposure might be causing autoimmune issues even without evidence of celiac disease. With the abundance of GMO’s, there have been an exponential surge of autoimmune disorders thought in part due to the toxic effects of gluten.
Symptoms of gluten sensitivity can vary. Some common ones include:
- Mood changes
- GI issues
- Poor sleep
- Rash (Dermatitis Herpatiformis is specific to gluten)
- Hormone dysregulation
- Hair loss
- Weight changes
- Joint/muscle pain/swelling
If these are reasons enough to make you want to consider cutting back on gluten, here are steps you can take to make the process a little easier.
- Get educated. There is nothing more empowering than understanding exactly why you are choosing this path. When I first began my gluten free journey it was not by choice, but out of necessity. I was one of the few that experienced all 10 of the above symptoms. It was daunting and overwhelming. I simplified the process by reading. A great way to start is with the book “Wheat Belly” by Dr. William Davis. Dr. Davis takes you through the history of how gluten has become toxic to our system. Sit with the information and absorb the rationale of why maintaining a gluten-free diet can be life-saving.
- Make a list of the foods your currently eat. Rather than trying to figure out which foods do or do not have gluten, start by streamlining and looking at your own diet. Make a list of all the foods and ingredients you eat on a regular basis. Then begin researching that specific food. Remember – gluten is not listed as an ingredient. It is a protein! You won’t find it on the label. You will learn over time how gluten is disguised in various forms.
- Start slowly. Don’t expect yourself to change overnight. It is not safe for the body, nor is it healthy. Start by decreasing a certain percentage of what you are currently eating. For example, eat only one slice of bread with your sandwich rather than two. This small change can make a significant impact. Remember, gluten is inflammatory. As you decrease your intake of gluten, body inflammation also diminishes. This will result in decreased cravings and an overall decrease in inflammation.
- Limit the gluten-free foods. While reaching for gluten-free cookies is nice when you need that sugar fix, gluten-free products are filled with other ingredients and chemicals that are not good for us. In August 2013, the FDA issued a final rule, effective August 2014, that defined the term “gluten-free” for voluntary use in the labeling of foods as meaning that the amount of gluten contained in the food is below 20 parts per million. This means only a small portion of the food needs to be gluten-free to earn that label. It very well could be that the other portion in the food is not. If you wouldn’t eat a regular cookie, then you shouldn’t be eating a gluten-free one. Indulgences are ok as long as they remain on that special occasion.
- Clear out expectations. Lose the idea that going gluten-free will be the “IT” weight loss miracle. Because it is not! If you lose weight from removing gluten, it is because you are caliberating your metabolism. While weight loss may be an added benefit, the real reward is overall health. When the body is balanced and brought to its natural homeostasis, everything will be in perfect working order, including the weight. Don’t chase the weight loss. Allow it to present itself to you along with all of the other great benefits!
Gluten-free eating is truly not the next fad. There are many, and more to come, unfolding studies and evidence of benefits to living gluten free. It is not a quick fix. We didn’t get here overnight. So stay the path. Stay focused. Stay determined and above all STAY COMMITTED!
CHANGE IS COMING!