Friday, October 14, 2011

Gluten? (Part 1)

I've been doing a ton of research the past few months on gluten. There seems to be a lot of hype about gluten free foods and it made me wonder if I/we needed to go gluten free. So what is gluten?

Gluten is a sticky protein found in wheat.

The gluten allergy is called celiac disease. Symptoms for gluten intolerance are all across the board:
Abdom­i­nal pain
Bone or joint pain
Bloated belly
Canker sores
Chronic diar­rhea
Delayed growth and devel­op­ment
Mucous excess
Pale, foul-smelling or fatty stool
Skin rashes
Tooth enamel defects
Unex­plained iron-deficiency ane­mia
Unable to lose weight, especially in belly
Weak immune system
(this is just a short list. You can google the topic and find a lot more specifics)

This allergy can be tested by a blood test, but studies have shown that 1 in 7 people are sensitive to gluten, not necessarily allergic, and this would not show up on a blood test. The only way to figure out if you have a gluten sensitivity is to remove it from your diet for about 4-6 weeks and try adding it back in. When we did this, it became obvious that we both are sensitive to gluten (me more than Zach though). Surprisingly, I've also found that the longer I go without gluten, the more sensitive I've become and the more it bothers me. I recently got a salad from Subway, no dressing, and got horrible cramps for the next couple hours. It must have had bread/gluten crumbs or something. I was never that sensitive before.

It goes to show that you don't realize what is hurting and damaging your body if you've been doing it for so long. You get used to feeling a certain way after eating certain foods and you don't even think about it. That is why it is even more important to just try cutting it out. Just one month. If your body does not have a hard time digesting gluten, you'd be that much more knowledgeable and can go back to eating how you were. But if your body does not function well with gluten, believe me, you will know the first bite of bread or whatever you try to eat again after 4-6 weeks gluten free. Not all people are born with a gluten intolerance. It is sometimes triggered or activated by childbirth, pregnancy, severe emotional stress, surgery or a viral infection.

What does gluten do in your body? It attacks your immune system by targeting intestinal villi. Intestinal villi are responsible for nutrient absorption. Over time (some longer than others) gluten flattens the intestinal villi so your body is not getting all the nutrients it needs even if you are eating all the right foods. If the intestinal villi has been flattened, it can take years for it to heal in adults. Children have been shown to heal in 3-6 months. The good bacteria in your intestine keeps your gut wall strong to enable good digestion and nutrient absorption so toxins and food can't leak out and cause inflammation or any of those symptoms I listed earlier. What happens if you are gluten intolerant and are still eating gluten? You develop what's called a leaky gut. Your digestive system and intestinal track are not healthy and are not able to do what they need to do.

Where is gluten found? In almost everything!!! It is a filler and binding agent in many foods. Gluten is not just in bread. A couple examples are:
Imitation seafood
Almost all processed, packaged foods
Hot dogs
Salad dressing
Soy sauce
French fries
Deli meat
As I'm sure many of you have noticed, all stores carry gluten free of these items now. Health foods stores even more so. My two cents I want to quickly say though is that just because something is labeled "gluten free" does not mean it's healthy.

You still need to stick to the basic clean eating rules I wrote about here. I have seen cookies and candies and "breads" all labeled "gluten free", but they are filled with sugars and partially hydrogenated something or the other and a lot of the breads use things like potato starch, soy, unpronounceable gums for binding agents or corn fillers. Remember, it's the back of the box that really counts. The front of the package means nothing...they can say whatever they want.

More to come tomorrow... :)

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