The media and medical community have given gluten increased attention in over the past few years. It has been linked to several health conditions, such as osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, anemia, fatigue, and rheumatoid arthritis just to name a few. I don’t necessarily believe gluten is the only cause of any of these conditions, but I do believe it plays a critical role in the development of the dis-eases. For example, this is how gluten may contribute to the development of osteoporosis. A person ingests gluten and it attacks the villi in their small intestine. This interferes with the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients, such as calcium. Therefore, even though a person might consume adequate amounts of calcium, their body is unable to absorb the nutrients resulting in a calcium deficiency.
I don’t think everyone needs to be gluten free, but probably more than not. If you suspect gluten might be causing you dis-ease then I suggest trying a “gluten-free challenge.” Remove gluten from your diet for a minimum of 30 days and keep track of how you feel. After 30 days, add it back into your diet eating at least one piece of bread everyday for two weeks. If your symptoms come back, then it is probably best to avoid gluten and follow up with a healthcare professional.
You know you need to avoid gluten, but what does that mean?
Unfortunately it is a lot more complicated than just avoiding bread. Gluten is in a lot of different foods and likes to hide in the Standard American Diet. According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is commonly found in pasta, noodles, breads, pastries, crackers, bake goods (cookies, cakes, pies etc.), sauces, beer, and tortillas. Gluten is also in wheat, rye, barley, malt (malt syrup or flavoring, malt vinegar, malted milkshakes) and brewer’s yeast (http://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/gluten-free-diet/sources-of-gluten). If you have to refrain from wheat too, remember is that just because something is labeled “gluten free” does not mean it is “wheat free” too. This underscores the importance of reading food labels thoroughly and carefully to make sure you know exactly what you are consuming.
What about oats?
Another question I am often asked is if oats are gluten-free. The answer is yes and no. Oats are by naturally gluten free, but the problem is most oats are manufactured in a facility that also contains gluten; therefore, they become cross-contaminated. If you still desire oatmeal, then opt for oats labeled “gluten free” and manufactured in a facility without gluten. Bob’s Redmill is a brand I recommend, but be aware that even though they are gluten free there is a high probability you still might have a hard time with digesting the oats. It has been my experience that most people who have irritable bowel syndrome or gluten intolerances do not tolerate oats very well, including me.
Is gluten-free healthier?
One last important piece of information regarding gluten, just because something is gluten-free does not make it a health food. Processed food with an abundance of chemicals you cannot pronounce–without gluten–is still junk. I rarely buy things labeled gluten-free and opt for whole foods instead. All fresh fruit, vegetables and meat are gluten free. If I want something like bread, pancakes or cookies, then I make them. This is a great way to save money and know exactly what ingredients I am eating. Follow me on Pinterest to discover some great allergy-free recipes. Also, soon I will start posting our weekly dinners with information on where you can find the recipes. Check back soon! But, for now, check out a few of my favorite resources on gluten-free living.
Celiac Disease Foundation. (n.d). Sources of Gluten. Retrieved from http://celiac.org/live-gluten-free/gluten-free-diet/sources-of-gluten