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Everybody’s talking about gluten. You can’t avoid the topic in the health community. So- what is gluten? And should you eat it? Here’s everything you need to know.
Gluten is a protein found in certain grains- wheat, barley, rye, spelt, semolina, bulgar, triticale, kamut, farro, durum, and some oats. It’s what gives them their chewy texture.
So how do you know if going gluten free is for you?
According to Dr. Crowe, ditching gluten is unnecessary for most people.
The gluten-free diet was originally made to combat celiac disease, an inherited condition which affects less than 1% of the population. With celiac, your body can’t process gluten. It leads to inflammation, damage to the intestines, rashes, bone problems, fatigue, depression, iron deficiency, and more.
Some people don’t have celiac or a wheat allergy, but still experience problems when consuming gluten. These people likely have non-celiac gluten sensitivity, or wheat intolerance. This results in painful gut symptoms, fatigue, bloating, headaches, bran fog, joint pain, skin rash (most often on the face, the back of the arms, and the bottom), and more.
A gluten-free diet typically helps relieve these symptoms.
Gluten sensitivity’s prevalence is unclear, but likely more common than celiac. There is no reliable blood or tissue test to know for certain if you have this condition. This is because gluten sensitivity isn’t a single disease, and has a number of possible causes. It could be because gluten activates the immune system in the small intestine or causes the gut to become leaky. Sometimes it’s because the individual is not sensitive to wheat proteins, but to fructans, the sugars found in wheat and other foods. Human intestines can’t break them down or absorb them. So, they make their way to the large intestine, or colon, where they’re fermented by bacteria, leading to gas and bloating.
Some people only experience negative effects because of the nocebo effect (the opposite of the placebo effect). They think they have problems digesting gluten, which leads them to believe they’re experiencing symptoms they wouldn’t otherwise.
If you feel you might have problems digesting gluten, get tested. If you are not celiac, but your sypmtoms persist, try removing gluten, or try an elimination diet. When initially removing gluten from your diet, depending on how often you eat it, you will likely crave it because it’s a highly addictive protein.
If you find you’re still craving gluten after 5 days of removing it from your diet, it’s because your body is craving the nutrients it was getting. You can easily replace these nutrients by eating a whole food diet of lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Gluten is also a rich source of B vitamins. Make sure you supplement B vitamins with a high quality supplement if you’re on a vegan diet. A raw organic spirulina supplement is a great way to get B12 on a vegan diet with a whole food.
The good news is- if you need to go gluten free, i has never been easier. There’s an abundance of alternatives to glutenous products- pasta, bread, crackers, sweets, and more. The less ingredients, the better.
When looking for pasta, for example, look for brands with minimal ingredients- like brown rice and water versus a pasta with lots of ingredients like potato starch, tapioca starch, and more. Brown rice pasta is a delicious, easily digested alternative to wheat pasta.
If you’re looking to stick to whole grains, here are some gluten free alternatives: brown and wild rice, quinoa, gluten-free oats (check the label), millet, teff, sorghum, buckwheat, amaranth, and more.
There’s a wealth of information online about gluten free living. You can find delicious recipes, practical blogs, and any other information you need online.
If you do remove gluten from your diet, and you’re vegan, make sure you’re supplementing B vitamins in your diet with a supplement or raw spirulina tablets, and by making sure you’re eating lots of whole foods- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
What are your favorite gluten free recipes? Let us know!
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