Posts Tagged ‘gluten’

Since starting this blog, I’ve been getting asked a lot of questions as to why I choose to eat gluten-free and why all my recipes are gluten-free, so I felt it was time to address this issue. A heads up – this post will be a long one.

So what’s the deal with gluten? The health claims are popping up everywhere: lose weight, feel more energized, eliminate arthritis, etc. Grocery stores and restaurant chains are hopping on the bandwagon, too. But, what is the real story behind gluten?

Gluten is a type of protein found particularly in wheat, rye and barley, as well as in lesser amounts in kamut and spelt. Gluten is highly elastic and strong, making it the core of bread dough because it is the gluten in dough that allows it to be kneaded and risen. It also keeps baked goods from crumbling.

So why is it so bad? To start off, much research substantiates wheat as a highly inflammatory food. Even in non-Celiacs, wheat is very irritating to the digestive tract, and interferes with the absorption of vitamins and minerals. Gluten consumption has been linked to menstrual and fertility issues, autoimmune diseases, nervous and endocrine system disturbances, mood disorders, and chronic pain. Gluten literally clogs our lymphatic system, hindering its ability to function as the bodies drainage system. Gluten has also been implicated in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and a recent study has uncovered that a gluten-free diet can reduce IBD. It has been stated by many health-care professionals that the gluten protein molecules found in wheat are simply not digested well by humans

An argument which many people have with me is that humans have been consuming wheat and gluten for hundreds of years without any adverse reactions. I always point out that there is a lot of evidence which shows that gluten content has risen in the past century. Even the bread our grandparents ate contained much less gluten. From a manufacturers point of view, it makes sense to want to breed and use wheat with a higher gluten content. Higher gluten content in wheat yields higher quality breads, rolls and baked goods. Gluten’s elastic nature also helps increase loaf volume and enables breads to retain their shape better while baking.

Higher amounts of gluten is just one aspect. Another problem is that in our culture today, most people eat some form of gluten on a daily basis, and usually many times a day. Think about it, I don’t know many people who don’t consume bread, buns, bagels, pastas or baked goods on a daily basis. And even those who don’t, gluten is now contained in so many processed products, people consume it without even realizing it.

One of my strong personal beliefs, and research is propping up everywhere now to back me up, is that gluten and wheat sensitivities have also risen due to wheat’s long history of hybridization and modifying.

According to Dr, Kalish, a renowned digestive and hormonal expert, gluten intolerance is a health problem at epidemic proportions in certain populations in the United States and remains largely unrecognized by conventional medicine. Doug Cook, a Toronto-based registered dietitian said “I think we’re finding now, especially [among those with an] eastern European background, that gluten sensitivity is probably a lot more common than we thought it was.” A research study published in the British Medical Journal in November of 1998 found that gluten intolerance is found most frequently in those with Irish, English, Scottish, Scandinavian, and other Northern European and Eastern European heritages.

Sadly it is hard to diagnose gluten sensitivity. Dr. Lieberman, author of The Gluten Connection, has been investigating gluten sensitivity for more than 20 years. In her experience, eliminating gluten can alleviate many troubling symptoms for which doctors often can’t find a cause, as well as chronic conditions for which mainstream medicine offers little hope of relief – including rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis, psoriasis, fibromyalgia, lupus, and irritable bowel syndrome.

A lot of people are not even aware of the devastating effects gluten has on their bodies. Gluten causes an inflammatory reaction, however this goes largely unnoticed simply because it is not severe enough to cause immediate symptoms. If a gluten intolerant person eats gluten-containing foods for extended periods of time, over and over again, this low-grade inflammation can lead to a variety of problems. With long-term exposure, the results of this low-grade response to the gluten molecule can be devastating to a variety of body systems. Its effect on the digestive system is the most immediate. Dr. Kalish states that he has treated hundreds of gluten intolerant patients whose indigestion problems were misdiagnosed as heartburn or IBS, and who suffer from chronic bloating and gas.

I personally have had a high success rate with my own clients whom I advised to go gluten-free. I personally find that when I eat anything with gluten, I get really bloated. So I tend to avoid it as much as possible (which is a challenge in itself).

Another surprising finding is that along with gluten intolerance comes food cravings, and it has frequently been observed that people crave that which they are allergic to. Please take note, if you crave gluten, there is a high probability that you are gluten sensitive.

Obvious foods to avoid:

  • Wheat bread, rye bread, bagels, rolls, baguettes, buns, croissants
  • Muffins, cupcakes, cakes, cookies and most other baked goods
  • Pizza
  • Pretzels
  • Crackers
  • Pastas
  • Couscous
  • Barley
  • Bulgur
  • Most breakfast cereals

The trickiest part is detecting the hidden gluten in processed foods. Gluten is often times used as a cheap filler or binding agent. Here is a list of not-so obvious foods that contain gluten:

  • Most beers and some wines
  • Soy sauce – only Tamari is OK
  • Malt vinegar
  • Prepared gravies or gravy or packages
  • Many types of soup
  • Baked beans or chili
  • Some salad dressings (Commercial salad dressing and mayonnaise containing gluten stabilizers)
  • Certain brands of sausages
  • Luncheon meat – may contain fillers
  • Stock cubes or bouillon
  • Seitan (doesn’t contain gluten, it IS gluten!)
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
  • Most imitation meat products
  • Imitation crab meat
  • Malt, anything ‘malted’
  • Caramel color
  • Some cheaper supplements
  • Some toothpastes
  • Some lipsticks
  • Some pharmaceutical products

Again, it is very important to read the labels!

So it may seem kind of depressing trying to avoid gluten, but it really doesn’t have to be. There are so many wonderful and delicious substitutions and alternatives. A great replacement for pasta is rice pasta – I find you really can’t tell the difference and it’s available in almost every shape and size. As for cereals, there are many great cereals that are made of puffed rice, quinoa or millet. Some of the best gluten-free grains are quinoa, buckwheat, rice, millet, and amaranth; tapioca, sorghum, arrowroot and potato flours can all be used to replace wheat flour and make great thickening agents.

I will continually post gluten-free recipes! With a little effort and imagination, the transition away from gluten doesn’t have to be a difficult one. And luckily now there is such a wide variety of gluten-free products on the market!


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