What’s all the hype about gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in grains, the most common being wheat, barley, and rye. Recently, “GF” or “gluten free” labeled products are popping up everywhere. Grocery stores have gluten free aisles now, restaurants are adding gluten free options to their menus, and diet and health books are coming out with gluten free eating plans. So, is it another fad diet or is it really a healthier way to eat?
About 10 years ago, after being chronically sick for years, I made the decision that I couldn’t live like that anymore. I had to change my life. At the time, words like organic, all-natural, and holistic were not mainstream. I had to search for information to learn how I could use food and a simple lifestyle to help my body heal. I sought advice from several health professionals who all had one message for me – cut out the gluten. What the heck is gluten? I remember the feeling of disbelief when I was given the list of foods containing this old friend which I found out is actually a poison to my body. The first word on the list that I couldn’t get past was WHEAT – any wheat product contains gluten. When I looked over the obvious and then less obvious sources of wheat and gluten in my diet – from breads, pastas, cakes, cookies, and pastries to sauces, dressings, and coatings – I thought how will I ever eat again?
Because the organic, healthy, all-natural craze hadn’t hit yet, I realized very quickly that I would be going against the grain in making drastic changes to my diet. Not only would I have to explain over and over again to friends and family why I was making the decision to cut out wheat (I didn’t even bother to explain what gluten was), but I also had to learn how to make my own gluten free options and navigate around the gluten bearing foods because readily available gluten free products had not yet hit the stores and definitely not the restaurants. At first, I was terrible at this, but after about 9 months, I learned some tricks and experimented enough to find some new favorite foods to enjoy. Fast forward 9 years down the road, and I don’t even miss gluten containing foods. Meal planning, snacking, social situations, and eating out are no big deal; I don’t even think twice anymore about what I will eat.
You may be thinking – how can that be? I could never get there because I am in love with my scone or bagel in the morning and my lasagna with garlic bread for dinner. But I promise, when you experience the difference cutting out gluten can make in how you feel, you will never want it back in your life. Having renewed energy, a clear head, and a functioning immune system becomes the motivator for continuing down the gluten free path. Of all the changes I have made in my quest for vibrant health, omitting gluten has made the biggest impact. See my Complete Guide to Going Gluten Free, in which I have wrapped up all of my knowledge, recipes, products, and strategies into one easy to implement program.
What’s the matter with gluten?
Gluten is the main protein in wheat and is also found in other grains like barley, rye, spelt, and kamut. Viewed alone, gluten is a gray, tough, elastic material that helps bread and cake type products stick together and hold gas bubbles and therefore rise to have the texture we enjoy in our baked items. It helps to keep those baked items from crumbling and allows them to hold together for a longer shelf life. When you think of gluten, think of the word “glue” because as its name suggests, gluten is gluey.
The problem is that this tough, sticky protein is quite hard to digest. As gluten moves through the digestive system, our bodies often cannot completely break it down. This undigested gluten forms deposits on the intestinal walls, which the body recognizes as a foreign substance and sends the immune system into the area to “kill” this “foreign” invader. This immune system response creates antibodies to the gluten protein that makes the body sensitive to gluten. The next time that gluten is ingested, the body again sees the gluten as foreign and sets up a continual attack each time gluten is eaten, leading to a body ridden with hidden inflammation.
We all know what inflammation feels like. Think about when a bug bites you or when you trip and skin your knee. Your body’s immune system responds by triggering a flood of white blood cells to fight infection and damage in the area, resulting in a warm, red, bump. This is inflammation. Once the white blood cells have taken care of business, another crew of anti-inflammatory agents comes in to calm the area and begin the healing process. The immune system is working well when this process of inflammation is fired up and then cooled down. That’s what keeps us healthy and bouncing back from illness and injury.
But sometimes, inside our bodies, symptoms of inflammation aren’t cooled down. Our immune system is constantly simmering, telling us that it is not functioning properly and is stuck in the “on” position. Not only is this obviously not healthy for our bodies, but we also just plain don’t feel good. We experience symptoms like achy joints and muscles, sinus pain and headaches, nasal allergies and sore throats, diarrhea and constipation, and mood swings and anxiety.
Gluten causes hidden inflammation in our bodies because in our society, gluten is eaten everyday, up to 3 – 6 times daily, launching an immune system response each time! Millions of people around the world cannot digest the gluten protein and have developed a reaction to it. Those who are severely affected have an autoimmune disease called celiac where the villi in the small intestine are damaged by the immune system, so food isn’t absorbed correctly leading to all sorts of problems within the body.
Imagine your life if you are able to cool off this hidden fire inside you – how good you will feel, how you will regain your energy, and how you will reclaim your life. If I – a former birthday cake addict – can kick the gluten habit, then I KNOW you can. I followed this easy 10-Day Fresh Start Detox plan to get off of gluten.
Wheat is a double whammy!
Wheat is the main source of gluten in our diet, but that’s not all. Wheat is also our major carbohydrate source, but it’s not a good one. The carbohydrates in wheat are extremely easy to break down, resulting in a quick spike in blood sugar. In fact, wheat spikes our blood sugar even more than regular old white table sugar.
Every time a wheat product is eaten, the sugars from the broken down carbohydrate flood our bloodstream triggering a large dose of insulin to be released. This insulin is like a messenger or a key telling the cells in our bodies to open up and take in the sugar for fuel. Not needing that much energy all at once, our bodies store the rest of the sugar as fat deposits. For a little while when our cells are bathed in sugar, we feel euphoric – happy, energized, and focused. But just as quickly as our blood sugar spikes after eating wheat, it plummets. We feel this drop in blood sugar as a foggy fatigue. Our bodies immediately want something else to eat to fix the situation. Typically, we reach for another wheat product – maybe a cracker, cookie, or pretzel – and start the whole cycle over again. Over time, this cycle becomes addicting and leads to insulin resistance – diabetes.
Switching from the quick burning carbohydrates in wheat for fuel to slow burning fat for fuel results in your body having an even amount of energy daily – no more ups and downs. This stability in your blood sugar results in constant energy, a clear head, mental focus, and a stable mood, yet another reason to omit wheat from your diet to attain vibrant health. Just think of all you can experience in your new healthy body! I stabilized my blood sugar with this 10-Day Fresh Start Detox, which helped me move from quick burning carbohydrates to slow burning fats for energy.
But we’ve been eating wheat and gluten for centuries!
This is true; wheat has been around since Biblical times. But the wheat from yesteryear is not the wheat we eat today.
As the population began to explode in the 20th century, scientists were under pressure to find a way for our crops to multiply in order to feed everyone. Through a process called hybridization, they were able to breed a new kind of wheat that is easier to harvest. But, as a result, this new wheat contains more gluten proteins. More of this sticky, elastic gluten turned out to be a good thing for our food manufactures because they can now create breads and baked items with that soft, spongy texture everyone craves and even better, the products last longer because they stick together and don’t crumble.
The only solution to avoid the problems today’s wheat cause in your body is to quit eating it. Some people experience huge benefits by just minimizing it, but others, especially those with celiac disease, must completely omit any food with gluten. Although this seems impossible, I promise it’s not. I’d love to visit with you more about your health, the goals you have for yourself, and if going gluten free can help you. I have a simple, healthy plan to get rid of the gluten and set up your new gluten free life in my Complete Guide to Going Gluten Free.