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Going Gluten Free to Reduce Inflammation

There is more talk today about going gluten free than ever before, and for a very good reason!

The History of Gluten

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.  It has always be a part of our dietary intake, but as is the case with most of the foods we eat, the gluten our grandparents ate, is not the same gluten that is in countless foods we eat today.   Things have changed a lot in the way that wheat is grown, processed and eaten.  It has changed in how it is milled and in how it is cultivated and farmed.  This excerpt from Wikipedia says it well: “From a human nutrition standpoint, it is ironic that wheat milling methods to produce white flour eliminate those portions of the wheat kernel (bran, germ, shorts, and red dog mill streams) that are richest in proteins, vitamins, lipids and minerals.”

 

 

According to Wheat Belly author Dr. William Davis, “this thing being sold to us called wheat—it ain’t wheat. It’s this stocky little high-yield plant, a distant relative of the wheat our mothers used to bake muffins, genetically and biochemically light-years removed from the wheat of just 40 years ago.”  And now scientists are starting to connect modern wheat with all manner of chronic digestive and inflammatory illnesses. 

 

So as mentioned before, the "wheat" we once new, no longer exists, we've invented mechanical technologies to turn wheat into barren white flour.  Then, we invented chemical and genetic technologies to make it resistant to pests, drought and easier to harvest.  While we were figuring out ways to tweak the genetics of wheat, we also figured out how to increase glutens for better “baking properties” (fluffier results).  It is this increase in glutens in the wheat that has had the most profound effect on inflammation.  Still, no reasonable person and certainly no chronically ill person can ignore the big picture concerning wheat.   We have genetically modified mutant seeds, grown in synthetic pesticide laden soil, which has been deconstructed and stripped of all of its nutrients and pulverized into a fine dust, bleached and chemically treated to create an industrial filler that even pests and rodents won't eat.  

If all this alarms you, the simple and obvious prescription is “don’t eat wheat”.   Hence the gluten-free craze.   Be warned going into the prospect of going gluten free, that many of the shelved products you see in the grocery store labeled gluten free, may be just as unhealthy because of the chemicals used to substitute for gluten in order to create a texture and taste that people have come to expect.  Which leads to a solution that will produce even greater health if followed, don't by food that is packaged.  Stick to fresh, organic foods as often as possible.  

 

What Products Contain Gluten?

Dr. Mariane Beck from Womens Best Health says it best, "Gluten is the substance that creates texture and makes bread and dough sticky.  It is found in breads, cakes, cookies, pies, bagels, cereals, sauces and gravies, frozen dinners, pasta, boxed rice mixes, soy sauce, beer—the list goes on and on. Eating gluten and gluten containing products, causes inflammation in the intestines and atrophy of the villi lining the intestines that are responsible for absorbing nutrients.  This causes your body to be unable to absorb essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, protein, carbohydrates and fats from the food you eat and the supplements you take.  If your body can not absorb these critical nutrients, it will not function properly—regardless of how well you eat or how many supplements you ingest!  If you are sensitive to gluten, this will cause your immune system to attack your body, whether it is your thyroid, your joints, your connective tissue, your intestines etc.  Stated another way, gluten sensitivity leads to chronic gut inflammation, leaky gut and ultimately autoimmune disease."  Although many feel that people that are gluten sensitive or intolerant are those who suffer the destruction caused by gluten, it is important to realize that doctors rarely test properly and most people that are chronically ill do have gluten intolerance or sensitivity.    

Diseases Commonly Associated with Gluten Sensitivity:

  • Hashimoto’s Thyroid   
  • Hypothyroid/Hyperthyroid
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Migraine Headaches
  • Dementia/Alzheimer’s
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Osteoarthritis/Osteoporosis
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Heart Disease
  • Chronic Fatigue/Chronic Pain Syndromes
  • Psoriasis/Eczema
  • Depression
  • Chronic Anemia
  • ADD/ADHD/OCD
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • And a host of other autoimmune conditions


Going Gluten Free

A gluten free diet requires a change in your lifestyle, but the benefits will shine through and after you adapt, you will wonder why you hadn't made the change sooner.  

Gluten Free Food List

The most cost effective and healthy way to follow a gluten free diet is to seek out foods that are naturally gluten free, which include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Seafood 
  • Dairy
  • Beans
  • Legumes
  • Nuts

What About Grains?

There are many naturally gluten-free grains and with the growing interest by many in becoming gluten-free, they are easier to find than ever.  Be careful not to purchase grains from bulk bins because of the possibility of cross contamination with gluten products.   

The following grains and other starch-containing foods are naturally gluten-free:

 

  • Rice
  • Cassava
  • Corn (maize)                                                 
  • Soy
  • Potato
  • Tapioca
  • Beans
  • Sorghum
  • Quinoa
  • Millet
  • Buckwheat groats (also known as kasha)
  • Arrowroot
  • Amaranth
  • Teff
  • Flax
  • Chia
  • Yucca
  • Gluten-free oats
  • Nut flours
  • Gluten-Free Substitutes

    When you first make the switch to a gluten-free diet, you may miss some of the foods you have become accustomed to eating, in which case you may wish to substitute with gluten-free alternatives.   Keep in mind, however, that minimally processed fresh foods are a crucial part of a healthy gluten-free diet.   In order to get the taste and texture that the gluten usually provides, manufacturers often substitute other chemicals for gluten.  Since the goal for anyone that is chronically ill and going gluten-free is to lower chemical intake and inflammation, it is very important to base your diet around fruits, vegetables, meats, and other healthy food groups that are naturally gluten free.  (see the list above) 

    It is also important to remember that “wheat-free” does not necessarily mean “gluten-free.”  However, there are many gluten-free options available that use alternative flours and grains. Often, gluten-free bread can be found in the freezer section. Additionally, there are gluten-free flours and flour blends available in the grocery aisle, allowing you to bake your own bread.

    Beverages

    Most beverages are gluten-free, including juices, sodas, and sports drinks. Alcoholic beverages, including wines and hard liquor/distilled liquors/hard ciders are also gluten-free. However, beers, ales, lagers, malt beverages and malt vinegars that are made from gluten-containing grains are not distilled and therefore are not gluten-free. There are several brands of gluten-free beers available in the United States and abroad. 

    As with anything new you embark upon, there will be a learning curve, but the most important thing to remember is why you are making the choice to go gluten-free.  When times get tough and you want to go back to the diet you've known just re-read the list of benefits and know that for a person that is chronically ill, these benefits are even greater.

    Benefits

     

    1)  DIGESTION:  The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness states that eliminating gluten reduces stomach upset, diarrhea, abdominal cramping, gas, bloating and constipation in those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity.  If you are sensitive to gluten, as most people with chronic illness are, this will cause your immune system to attack your body, whether it is your thyroid, your joints, your connective tissue, your intestines etc.  Stated another way, gluten sensitivity leads to chronic gut inflammation, leaky gut and ultimately autoimmune disease.

    2)  NEUROLOGICAL:  Eliminating gluten often leads to improved mood, better focus and clearer thinking.  According the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, people with gluten sensitivities report that eating gluten causes headaches, foggy thinking, ADHD-like symptoms and even depression. These side effects occurring in the brain are attributed to an inflammatory molecule called cytokines, which are released when a sensitive person eats gluten.  These cytokines are detrimental to brain function and high levels have been linked to Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and autism.

    3)  INFLAMMATION: Cytokines cause inflammation in other body tissues as well.  According to the Mayo Clinic, people with a gluten intolerance may experience joint pain, muscle cramping and numb legs as a result of eating gluten.  Chronic inflammation can cause pain, disease and even cancer.  Inflammation of skin tissues and itchy rashes may also be a sign of gluten intolerance.  

    4)  ENERGY LEVELS:  If you are sensitive to gluten, which many people with chronic illness are,  it's likely you are not digesting and absorbing vitamins and minerals as well as you could be.  This slight malnutrition can cause a drop in energy levels and leave you feeling fatigued.  Many people with gluten intolerance report a feeling of overall weakness and tiredness.  In addition, anemia, which also causes a person to feel tired, is attributed to a malabsorption of iron that occurs due to inflammation in the intestines.   

     

     

     


     

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