Updated: Apr 22, 2019
Part 1: Gluten
What is gluten anyway?
Gluten is a sticky plant protein found in wheat that helps gluten containing foods maintain their shape. Gliadin is the protein found in gluten that individuals diagnosed with Celiac disease (about 1 in 100 people) cannot digest.
Think of gluten as glue that holds the food together and provides the fluffy texture of various baked goods we have grown to love.
Is gluten found in other foods besides grains like pastas and breads?
YEP! Here's just a few other gluten containing foods:
· Frozen/canned veggies
· Sauces (soy sauce, ketchup gravy etc), dressings
· Imitation meats
· Almost all processed/packaged foods
Extra gluten is also often times added to packaged breads due to the fact it makes dough of the bread rise easily (think super fluffy Wonder Bread etc).
So now you know what gluten is, what does it actually do to our bodies?
Gluten protein is difficult to digest in MOST humans (not just those with Celiac’s)
The latest research suggests gluten:
- Impairs gastric acid secretion leading to inability to digest proteins effectively
- Compromises digestion by causing weakening in the intestinal lining
- Weakening of junctions in intestinal lining allows for entry of pathogens, bacteria, non digested food particles and toxins into bloodstream
- Systemic inflammation caused by entry of harmful particles into bloodstream
- Inflammation (especially chronic inflammation) leading to array of symptoms such as:
Blood sugar imbalances
GI upset such as IBS
Various autoimmune issues
Why does gluten have this effect on our bodies all of the sudden if humans have been eating it for centuries?
The short explanation: The gluten eaten by our ancestors is VASTLY different from the gluten we consume today.
The gluten added to our favorite commercial breads and pastas and processed foods have been turned into “Franken-grains.”
The long explanation:
Between 1950-2000, the food industry began to create food additives to enhance flavor, extend shelf life, and preserve color. Man made fortified vitamins and minerals were also added, which seems like a good idea at first, but turns out many of the vitamins and minerals (like folic acid) added are not bioavailbale for our bodies to use effectively. Also, companies began cross breeding wheat to create high-yielding crops in order to maximize their profit with less work. Therefore, the modernization of the grains we know and love, have become so hard for our bodies to digest.
The two most common additives to our favorite store bought bread or packaged treats are tansglutaminase and butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT). Transglutaminase has taken the place of yeast in many commercially baked goods and has the nick name “meat glue.” (Exactly what you want as part of your meal, right?). BHT is the preservative that is found in nearly all bread and gluten containing products that were not baked on the same date as purchase. This preservative is a known hormone disrupter and is also thought to promote fat storage in the body.
Y’all a fake substance called “meat glue” has taken the place of a natural substance, yeast, in your store bought bread and has been found to be hijacking our hormones. I’m not one to preach fear, but that’s a bit scary!
The two of these additives (plus many more) are weakening our digestive systems, hijacking our hormones, and preventing stabilization and regulation of our blood sugar. Cue chronic inflammation, chronic fatigue, brain fog, really every symptom we have written off as “that’s just life,” and ultimately may lead to diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s. So is it the gluten causing all the negative symptoms or is it the additives? In my opinion it is a combination of both- the gluten protein is difficult to digest, and the additives make digestion even worse. This is the reason why I try to limit my intake of gluten-containing processed foods.
What do you eat instead?
Here are a few of my favorite gluten-free starch alternatives:
- Root veggies such as sweet potatoes and Japanese yams
- Squashes (yellow, zucchini, spaghetti)
(Careful with foods high in lectins—more to come on lectins in later posts!)
I will tell you, switching to a GF diet wasn’t a walk in the park. It takes time to become experimental with different foods, but it’s possible!
I have found that removing the gluten allows more room for dietary diversity of REAL food in my life. More veggies, less packages.
It was eye opening to how much my family and I relied on gluten containing, processed foods for nearly EVERY meal of the day. Added up over a lifetime, no wonder I had so much brain fog, lethargy, GI upset and difficulty losing weight.
Where I believe the GF community runs into trouble is when processed gluten favorites such as pastries, cakes, cookies, crackers, etc. are replaced with EQUALLY AS PROCESSED gluten-free alternatives. Most of the time, the GF aisle in the grocery store is lined with GF packaged food that trades one hard to digest ingredient for other ones (tapioca starch, xanthan gum, hydrogenated oils like palm and soybean oil etc). My advice, if it’s in a package and has ingredients that you can’t cook with it at home, steer clear.
My goal is to experiment with OTHER REAL FOOD- veggies, fruit, foods that are going to give my body the micronutrients it needs.
I am not telling you I am perfect, nor do I munch on raw broccoli all the time—but have you ever tried baked plantains with some salt and pepper instead of chips? OR some cauliflower baked with some Frank’s Hot Sauce over it instead of breading your wings? Baked and steamed veggies with your favorite seasonings on top are so underrated.
Yes, it takes some prep work and most veggie and real food options aren’t available for easy access in the office vending machine, but your body will thank you for feeding it real food over processed every time!
I don’t ever want speak from a “my way is better" approach, nor do I want to instill fear.
I want to provide you with the most up to date research and then expand on the research with sharing my own experience. I want to equip you to be the most aware consumer you can be, choosing the best foods for yourself and your family, because food IS medicine and we have a choice to heal or hurt our bodies with food AT LEAST three times a day. How powerful!
REMEMBER PERFECTION IS NEVER THE GOAL
Your “favorite” gluten-ified foods can still have a place in your life, but try limiting them to 1-2 meals per week and never back-to-back meals/days. I will never preach the “be perfect” life because let’s face it, that birthday, celebrate it, that going away party, enjoy it—but it is my opinion we could use a little gluten break- especially if you are one suffering from mood imbalances, skin breakouts, GI discomfort, chronic fatigue, joint pain, brain fog, autoimmune symptoms etc. Try eliminating processed, gluten containing foods anywhere from 1-3weeks (ideally three) and slowly begin to reintroduce. Notice the differences you feel and take the time to learn about how to feed your body best.
If you would like to know if you have a food sensitivity to gluten or any other high inflammatory food, don't guess, lab test! See the food sensitivity lab testing option under my "Services" tab for more information!
Please feel free to shoot me an email with any questions/concerns you have on this topic! I love reading your feedback and helping to clear up questions! I would love to hear from you!
Gundry, S. Dr. (2017 July 31). The Truth About Gluten-Free Foods (they are making things worse). Retrieved from https://gundrymd.com/gluten-free-foods/
Hyman, M. Dr. (2017 January 19). Here’s Why a Gluten-Free Diet Can be Incredibly Unhealthy. Retrieved from https://drhyman.com/blog/2017/01/19/heres-gluten-free-diet-can-become-incredibly-unhealthy/
Marshall, N. (2017 March 1). Gluten is NOT the Problem, Your Digestion Is! A Look at Gluten-Free Diets. Retrieved from http://everydayayurveda.org/gluten-problem-digestion/
Note: the information on this page is for educational purposes only and should not be used as substitution for personal consultation with your medical physician.