The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of going Gluten-free
While eliminating gluten is critical for those living with Celiac Disease, it has become a more frequent way of life for many looking to optimize their health. Recent stats show that as much as 1/3 of adults are now trying to cut down, or avoid gluten in their diets.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein composite found in several types of grains, including wheat. Its name derived from its glue-like properties when combined with water, gluten gives an elastic property to bread and allows it to rise during the baking process. Once ingested, gluten interacts with the immune cells lining the digestive tract causing them to mount a non-specific immune response. In individuals who live with Celiac Disease, these immune cells attack not only the gluten protein, but also the lining of the digestive tract (autoimmunity) – hence the need to eliminate gluten completely from their diet. In those individuals who possess an intolerance (or sensitivity) to gluten, a similar inflammatory reaction occurs, albeit less severe, that can result in a variety of health issues. Fatigue, gas, bloating, malabsorption and nutrient deficiencies, decreased immune function, and infertility, are just a few of the concerns that may be related to a gluten sensitivity.
Gluten-containing grains include: wheat (spelt, kamut, bulger, semolina), barley, rye
The good side of going gluten-free:
I am finding that increasingly more of the wheat products in North America are genetically modified, and this in and of itself may be why more people are developing sensitivities/intolerance to gluten. Genetically modified wheat (containing gluten) has been shown to contribute to diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, anxiety, depression, and ADHD to name a few of the chronic health conditions that plague modern society.
It is well known that limiting/eliminating gluten containing grains in one’s diet can result in a variety of health benefits. Going gluten-free can help to decrease systemic inflammation, heal the gut and improve digestive concerns, decrease pain and cramping (especially for women with menstrual cramps), aid in weight loss, improve brain fog, focus, and overall energy levels. To find out if adopting a gluten-free lifestyle is right for you, contact your Naturopathic Doctor.
Gluten-free grains include: brown rice (or white rice), buckwheat, corn, oats, quinoa, millet, amaranth, tapioca, teff, and sorghum.
The bad and the ugly of going gluten-free:
While a gluten-free diet can yield numerous health benefits, eating certain gluten-free foods does not always mean that they provide a healthier alternative. Gluten-free processed foods like breads, cookies, cakes, and pizzas, often substitute wheat for corn starch, rice flour, or potato flour – all starches that can contribute to weight gain and unbalanced blood sugar levels. Many of these foods also contain more sugar in an attempt to make their taste more appealing.
I recommend opting for whole food, whole grain options as listed above, rather than stocking up on your processed, premade, store-bought brands.
It is never easy to make dietary changes, regardless of what they may be. Check out some of my favourite resources to make the transition a little bit easier:
Civilized Caveman Cooking (http://civilizedcavemancooking.com/)
o all of these recipes are Paleo-friendly meaning that they actually don’t include any grain or dairy. These recipes are all very high in protein, and do contain nuts (ALLERGY ALERT)
Oh She Glows (http://ohsheglows.com/)
o all of these recipes are vegan and GF. There are a number of options for snacks (i.e. granola bars, energy balls, etc) that are easy to make and taste awesome. There is also an Oh She Glows cookbook that we love in our household.
Wheat Belly Cookbook – by Dr. William Davis, MD provides completely GF recipes
Gluten-Free Goddess (http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.ca/)