Nutrition Articles – Why Gluten Free?
Personally, I have always been an advocate of whole wheat, but I have been seeing a lot of Gluten-Free-Diet ads and labels about lately. At the grocery store, on the internet, in restaurant menus and even at the Bakery with BIG exclamation points at the end (!!!) the signs are all around me. I’ve even seen gluten free pet foods. But if you had asked me, even a month ago, ‘exactly what is Gluten?’ I would’ve replied, ‘ I think it’s an ingredient in wood glue.’
Since then I decided to do some research on the issue and look into what all the hype was about. I found out that not only is gluten used as a stabilizing agent in some foods (Ketchup and Ice Cream) but that ‘Gluten’ actually comes from the Latin word for ‘Glue’. (I was close!)
Gluten is a protein that is found in many commonly consumed grains, including Barley, Wheat and Rye. It is what gives breads their chewy and absorbent qualities. When separated from the grain, it is used in some vegetarian diets, because it absorbs the flavor of the broth it is boiled or cooked in. For this reason it is used as a base for imitation meats that are made in China. It is also used to improve the protein content in pet foods.
So, what’s wrong with this common component of whole grain? Well, lets start with Celiac Disease. Celiac disease is an inherited autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the villi (small finger-like protrusions) in the small intestine whenever gluten is introduced into the system. This prevents nutrient absorption into the body which causes symptoms such as anemia and fatigue.
If you aren’t afflicted with celiac disease, you may still be able to benefit from a gluten free diet. Studies have been done recently linking gluten to a number of negatives. If you suffer from Neuromyelitis, Osteoporosis, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Anemia, Ataxia, even Brain Fog or difficulty concentrating, you may be able to benefit dramatically by eliminating gluten from your diet! Even if a loved one suffers from Downs Syndrome or Autism they could benefit from ditching gluten!
Basically, if you suffer from Celiac disease, any chronic pain issues or cognitive fogginess, you should at least give a gluten free diet a try. This can be a bit tricky if you like to eat breads, pastas and cereals or drink beer, but it IS possible. In fact, it’s getting easier and easier as the gluten free diet is gaining momentum and manufacturers, restaurants and bakeries are all producing products with this new diet option in mind. There are gluten free breads, pastas, cereals as well as beers that are available. There are also grain alternatives such as quinoa, soy, rice, potato and buckwheat. Oh, and vegetables and fruits are gluten free so there is no need for concern there as long as they are whole and fresh.
In conclusion, though whole wheat definitely has it’s benefits, (like the fact that it is a great source of fiber, protein, iron, calcium and minerals,) for some people, it may be worth a shot to avoid it. If you have celiac disease, whole wheat and grains should be avoided entirely. If you happen to have any of the other issues listed earlier I would recommend giving gluten a seat on the sidelines for at least a few weeks. See if you start feeling any better. If not… well, then enjoy your whole wheat toast and bowl of Crunch Berries.