WHAT THE HECK IS GLUTEN? A BEGINNERS GUIDE.

Ever heard the expression, water water everywhere, so lets all have a drink?

We should change that to gluten gluten everywhere but lets not take a bite.

(cue laughter right here)

I am going to try my best to not make this to sciencey for everyone but also want to cover the basics.

When conversing with my nutrition nerd friends, and looking at some of the emails I have received lately a lot of it has to do with what the eff is gluten?

I’m going to knock it out right here and hook you guys up with some info. This was actually one of my favorite posts. I learned a ton as well while researching this. So thanks to you all for asking the question.

What the eff is gluten? See this cool info graphic from Balanced bites.

What the eff is gluten

Ok, here comes the science part.

Gluten is a protein found in some grains (not all) but especially in wheat. More specifically (the science part) it is a combination of promalin proteins and gluten proteins found in wheat.

It is commonly used to add elasticity to dough. Keeps it from being a crumbly mess for the most part.

Gluten can also be found in the following foods:

  • Barley
  • Bulgar
  • Rye
  • Spelt
  • Wheat germ
  • Wheat bran
  • White flour (wheat based)

But that little S.O.B is pretty sneaky as you can find it in these foods that are usually made with wheat:

  • Modified food starch
  • MSG
  • Lecithin
  • Emulsifiers
  • Soy sauce
  • Pasta
  • Couscous
  • Flour tortillas
  • Beer (some of you may have just teared up)
  • Cookies/cakes
  • Cereal
  • Dressings
  • Sauces
  • Oats (not all)
  • Some broths and bouillon cubes
  • Imitation fish
  • Lunch meat and hot dogs
  • Chips
  • And even medications & supplements

Gluten intolerance is the most common food sensitivity of the intestine. 1 in 3 Americans are gluten intolerant. 8 out of 10 have the genes that pre dispose them to developing gluten intolerance (Dr.Kenneth Fine, Gluten intolerance researcher) This number actually may be higher due to many people being undiagnosed. It is estimated that 99% of people with a gluten intolerance don’t even know it. Typically diagnosing themselves and symptoms as something else.

These are common symptoms that may be felt when someone has a gluten intolerance.

  • Diarrhea
  • Bloating/gas
  • Eczema
  • Aching joints
  • Chronic headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability/mood change
  • Cramps
  • Decline in dental health
  • Slow growth in children

There is really nothing unique about these. Probably something most of us deal with on a daily basis. Hmmmmmm…….

If we experience some or most of these symptoms on a daily basis and 180 pounds of wheat is consumed by the average american per year (FAO) maybe there is something to this gluten thing.

Let’s dig a little deeper shall we? 

How do I know if I am allergic?

I hate to be the barer of bad news but it is really hard to tell if you have an intolerance. As mentioned above the symptoms we experience are very common. Symptoms of an intolerance are so widespread in their effects that it can be difficult to distinguish.

The symptoms have also been something we have grown accustomed to and often brush off or ignore as “normal.”

I find it pretty disheartening that just like we have been accustomed to the status quo in life or a traditional path that is expected of us to follow so to has our health.

It’s terrible that it; actually pisses me off that it has become “normal” to have chronic headaches, bloating, fatigue, digestive issues, heart burn, constipation, abdominal pain – I won’t bore you by repeating myself (I guess I just did 😀 ).

The scary thing about gluten intolerance is that it is a wide ranging systematic inflammatory response. Which means that it effects our entire body.

The effects of this inflammatory response cause a flattening of our intestinal walls. This leads to:

  • Diarrhea
  • Blaoting
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Malnutrition
  • Long-term intestinal scarring
  • Malabsorption of nutrients
  • Impaired digestion

Our brain, heart, joints, digestive system, endocrine system, liver, muscles, and blood vessels are all effected by an intolerance to gluten.

Not only are we suffering from daily discomfort but we are also putting introducing possible long-term side effects due to gluten effect on our vitals.

The Dangers

Due to the effects that gluten can have on our system as a whole, major diseases have been linked to the intolerance.

  • Celiac disease
  • Heart disease
  • Type 1 diabetes
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Parkinson’s
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Osteoporosis
  • ADHD
  • Arthritis
  • Obesity
  • Various forms of cancer
  • Gluten peptides have also been linked to Autism and MS.

That’s some scary s@&#! What makes it worse is that most of us go undiagnosed because gluten intolerance is a master of disguise. Manifesting itself as other illnesses and diseases.

We tend to brush of headaches or migraines, stomach cramps or bloating, stuffy noses and allergies, and dry/itchy skin as common ailments when indeed it is clear that there could be a greater cause that is in effect.

Who should get tested?

Anyone with Type 1 diabetes, thyroiditis, down syndrome, skin rashes, diarrhea (4+ weeks), or celiac disease should consult with a physician about possibly getting tested for gluten intolerance.

Why are we allergic and what to do about it

Grains actually have not been a staple of the human diet for very long. Grains were actually introduced around the medieval times or 10,000 years ago. In the grand scheme of things 10,000 years is not to long ago.

According to Chris Kresser, “Because plants like cereal grains are always competing against predators (like us) for survival. Unlike animals, plants can’t run away from us when we decide to eat them. They had to evolve other mechanisms for protecting themselves.” These include:

  1. producing toxins that damage the lining of the gut
  2. producing toxins that bind essential minerals, making them unavailable to the body
  3. producing toxins that inhibit digestion and absorption of other essential nutrients, including protein.

We can actually blame ourselves for this as well.

Think about when we cross-breed dogs. Like a pug and a beagle to get a “puggle.” We sort of do the same things with grains through a process called hybridization. Essentially we are combining different breeds of gluten to create a more potent form.

Living without gluten is fairly simple

Eat real food!

Lean meats, veggies, fresh fruit, and nuts for the most part. In essence, avoid anything with a label.

Seriously, I know that is easier said then done and there are certainly instances where we do buy packaged food.

My dad is a vegetarian and some friends are vegan and although I wish everyone followed a somewhat “Paleo” food approach I recognize that there are other nutritional approaches that work just fine and dandy for them.

So if you are buying foods with labels just look for those with the fewest ingredients possible.

Pay close attention to the term “wheat.”

Also, just because something says “wheat free” that does not mean it is gluten-free. Barely and Rye should also be searched for as well. 

Simple Gluten Intolerance Test

Step 1: Perform a kitchen makeover

Ok, this is going to be hardcore for some of you. Grab a large trash bag. Open up your fridge and pantry. Now pretty much throw away anything with a label.

I’m serious!

If you feel like you are wasting food then simple box it up and take it to your local shelter or food bank and donate it.

The only things we want in our kitchen will be the following.

  • Fresh fruit and veggies
  • Meat and fish that have not been breaded or marinated
  • Eggs and nuts
  • Oils (avocado, olive, macadamia, fish)

Here is a complete shopping list if you need to hit up the local Whole Foods.

For anyone that does not follow the Paleo/Primal food plan I recommend picking up these foods as well.

  • Brown rice
  • Sweet potatoes/Yam
  • Beans and legumes
  • Quinoa
  • Amaranth

When grocery shopping look carefully for any products that are made in a factory that handles wheat. Although, I expect you all to be shopping the perimeter of the store…. that is where all the real food is.

These will be the only foods you are consuming for the next 30 days. It is very important to be strict and dedicated during this time. As the soup nazi would say….

No gluten for you!

Step 2: Eating at restaurants

If you have to eat out make sure to plan ahead check with the restaurant about a gluten-free menu. If they don’t have one then I would avoid it. As you can see from reading this post (and I know you read the entire thing) many tricky little buggers contain gluten and restaurants are notorious B.I.G for using some of those ingredients to prepare meals.

Step 3: K.I.S.S

Keep it simple…. silly. Try and go as plain jane the best you can. Spices and herbs will typically be fine over this period but do you best to stick to the foods listed above in their natural state. Steam veggies, eat fruit raw and with skin on, cook meat properly and possibly even eliminate any non-stick sprays for the time being.

If you can’t handle it and need some ZEST. Check out these gluten-free recipes.

Prepare meals ahead of time and carry a cooler around with you if necessary so that you are always prepared.

Stick with water to drink and herbal teas. Eliminate coffee during this time as well as it is a common cross-reactant with gluten (I just cried a little).

Step 4: 30 days or bust

Try this for 30 days. This should be ample time to reset your system. After the 30 days you can slowly…. and I mean slowly add gluten contain foods that you typically eat. Add one thing at a time.

During this time pay close attention and become try aware of your body. When you eat the gluten containing food do you feel like shit? If so, don’t eat it anymore. Pretty simple.

I know that is a ton of info to handle and sometimes it can be a little confusing. If you need help understanding Gluten a little more don’t hesitate to contact me. I’m more than happy to help.

Check out this sweetness (otherwise known as a great resource) for gluten-free living

Live limitless

Justin

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Photo

Resources (holy crap that’s a ton!):

http://www.livingwithout.com/resources/gluten_free.html
http://www.celiac.org/images/stories/PDF/gfresources.pdf
http://www.gluten.net/learn/educational-bulletins.aspx
http://www.livingwithout.com/
http://www.glutenfreefox.com/
http://www.westonaprice.org/digestive-disorders/against-the-grain
http://glutenfreepassport.com/
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMra010852
http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2803%2914027-5/abstract
http://www.celiac.com/
http://undergroundwellness.com/these-aint-the-same-grains/
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-mark-hyman/gluten-what-you-dont-know_b_379089.html
http://chriskresser.com/9-steps-to-perfect-health-1-dont-eat-toxins

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