Here is a conversation I have heard at the grocery store: Female A, “Should I get the gluten-free bread?” Female B, “Definitely. It’s way more healthy.” Female A, “How do you know?” Female B, “It’s everywhere, haven’t you heard? They have a section for it in every grocery store. It’s like the new fat-free.”
Gluten in its own entity is not “unhealthy”. It’s certain people’s reaction, sensitivity or allergy to gluten that causes it to have harmful effects on the body. Two questions need to be answered to either legitimize or de-construct the myth that gluten is harmful for you.
1) What is gluten? Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, and oats. It is hidden in pizza, pasta, bread, wraps, rolls, and most processed foods. Obviously, gluten is in a lot of things in the American diet. For people that are sensitive or allergic, it can be daunting to realize that cutting out gluten means cutting out a lot of things that they love and eat every day.
Gluten sensitivity is actually an autoimmune disease that creates inflammation throughout the body, with wide-ranging effects across all organ systems including your brain, heart, joints, digestive tract, and more. It can be the single cause behind many different “diseases.” It can provide miraculous results by taking it out of your diet if you have an issue with it.
But the key point here is finding out if you have an issue with it. Inflammation can be caused by many things, not just gluten. So before you go eliminating all these things from your diet, you will want to find out if you actually have a sensitivity to it or not.
2) Am I allergic or sensitive to gluten? There are two ways to find out. One is testing. There are gluten allergy/celiac disease tests that are available through Labcorp or Quest Diagnostics. All these tests help identify various forms of allergy or sensitivity to gluten or wheat, however they are expensive and not always 100% effective.
The most reliable way is to completely remove all sources of gluten from your diet for two to four weeks and see how you feel. This means absolutely no gluten, not even a bite. Please go to www.celiac.com for a complete list of all sources of gluten, including hidden sources like soups and even most lipsticks.
Then when you eat it again, see what happens. If you feel bad at all, which might come in various forms but you will know without a doubt…you might be extremely sleepy, itchy, irregular bowels, anxious, etc…you should stay away from gluten permanently. This will teach you better than any test about the impact gluten has on your body.
If not, then you are one of the lucky gluten tolerant people out there. There are more people out there than one might think after all the hype that is currently going in about gluten.
…So I didn’t say anything to the girls in the grocery store, even though I wanted to. I also wanted to let them know that eating fat-free isn’t all that healthy either. We need certain fats in our body…ok I guess I will save that for another blog.