4 things to know about being Gluten-free

Why has "gluten-free" all of a sudden become a new fad? If people weren't allergic to gluten four years ago, why they now? Or are they?

1. Most likely, a person who states they are gluten-free will fall into one of the 3 categories below:

  1. Celiac's disease- This is an often genetic condition causing serious complications with the ingestion of gluten containing foods. The most common signs and symptoms include: chronic diarrhea, mucousy stools, weight loss, dermatitis herpetiformis (body rash), and a disrupted gut wall causing sensitivities to many foods. Diagnosis is made by biopsy, although blood testing for specific antibodies are done first. Think you have Celiacs?
  2. Gluten sensitivity- this term is used when people feel better being off of gluten. For example, they could have more regular bowel movements, better digestion, less stomach pain, etc. Diagnostic lab work and examination for Celiac's may be negative.
  3. Gluten-free by choice- These are the people that choose to be gluten-free by their own will. Removing gluten from the diet may be an experiment, such as doing the elimination diet, or it could be due to the negative connotation gluten has, or part of the blood type diet. These people do not suffer from the sign's and symptoms of gluten sensitivity and Celiac's disease. 

**NOTE: The above categories are ranked by most severe to least severe. 

2. What is Gluten and what does it do?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and triticale.  When you eat a piece of wheat bread, Gluten breaks apart and releases Gliadin. Gliadin then triggers the cells in your gut to pull apart and the Gliadin molecule slips right through- usually this protein would be to large to get past the gut wall.  Once past the wall of the gut, Gliadin interacts with your immune system cells and causes inflammation. And just like Gliadin slipped through the gut wall, other food proteins can to. This results in the abnormal presentation of food to the immune system, potentially causing more food allergies. In short, Gluten causes your gut to leak, causing inflammation. For more specific information on gluten click here

Fasano et al 2005

3. It is hard.

If you think it is difficult to accommodate for a gluten-free person for one meal, try having to do it daily, every day, for life- like those who have Celiac's disease. Going out to eat can be a challenge and even cooking dinner with friends and family can be difficult. It is hard to understand why people would go to such extreme lengths to avoid gluten when you have not suffered the results first hand. For someone with Celiacs, just using the same knife to cut bread and then cut an apple could be enough to cause severe symptoms of diarrhea, sharp abdominal pain, and a rash. For gluten-sensitive individuals, they may be able to have bread occasionally, but will suffer the consequences later (gas, bloating, fatigue, etc.). So, if you are hosting an event, stick to whole foods- vegetables, fruits, meats- and you will most likely have food for everyone. 

Gluten is hidden everywhere! Here is a list of gluten containing foods. Including the foods you wouldn't expect!

4. Gluten-free products are NOT more healthy.

Since being Gluten-free has become more prevalent, more foods have been processed to pull out the gluten in them (crackers, breads, pasta, etc.). This is great for those suffering from Celiac's disease and Gluten sensitivity, but should not be eaten by everyone. The best foods are whole foods- and these rarely incorporate gluten. A whole food is best defined as a food that still looks like it did when it grew in nature (vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, milk). Therefore, many whole foods can be labeled gluten-free. The foods found in the aisles, often in boxes and bags and labeled gluten-free, have been chemically processed to remove problematic proteins and are not whole foods. If you are not sensitive to gluten, choosing whole grain options are a healthier choice. They are less processed, contain more naturally occurring grains, and have more nutritional value. 

An interesting point of view.

Gluten sensitivity seems to have been an issue that popped up over night, and now many people are choosing to eat gluten-free diets. But why? Haven't our ancestors ate bread for hundreds of years? Yes, this is true. But with the growing population and the advancements in technology, the production of bread has become more of a science, rather than baking. The additives in bread today, such as the coloring, preservatives, and flavorings, may all play a role in how our body breaks down food and may lead to sensitivities we otherwise may not have had. 

What is needed to make a loaf of bread? Flour, water, yeast, salt, and sugar. Compare this to the gluten-free option below.