It’s doubtful that you haven’t heard the term “gluten-free” by now. Most often it is discussed when referring to Celiac disease. Celiac disease is a digestive autoimmune disorder associated with intolerance to gluten. Any product containing wheat, rye or barley must be avoided. People with Celiac are not optimally absorbing the nutrients from the food they eat. The symptoms range from diarrhea, weight loss, bloating, abdominal or joint pain to fatigue, brain fog, weakness, anemia, skin rashes and depression which is why it is not always easily diagnosed. In addition, if left untreated it can cause damage to the small intestine. If you have any of the above symptoms and have not been able to get any relief, ask your doctor to test you for Celiac. It is also genetic so keep that in mind if you have children who exhibit any of these symptoms. In some cases people who have Celiac may have a reaction to soy and dairy as well.
The hard part about eliminating gluten is that it can be found in everything from canned food to condiments such as ketchup and salad dressing. If you love sushi ask for the gluten-free soy sauce. You need to read labels. Even when you go to a restaurant, make sure you ask questions. There can be cross contamination in restaurants if they don’t have a gluten-free zone where they prepare food.
The good news is that once you are diagnosed and start avoiding gluten and clean up your digestive track you will feel like a new person. You should also know that you may test negative for Celiac but could still be sensitive to gluten. It is recommended that anyone with an autoimmune condition avoid gluten. Gluten can cause an inflammatory response in the body making an autoimmune issue worse. Here again it is important to get to the root of the problem and look at the whole person and see what is out of balance. I have Hashimoto’s which is an autoimmune thyroid condition however gluten is not a problem for me.
So many people have told me that they gave up gluten because they heard it is bad for you and causes weight gain. As a result many have given up not only gluten but all grains. This is where being bombarded with so much information can get confusing. First remember that no two people are alike. One person’s medicine is another person’s poison and vice versa. Beware whenever you read about anything to an extreme …extreme diet and food regiments, weight loss or even taking large amounts of supplements.
We have been eating wheat and gluten for thousands of years. Gluten is fine as long as you are eating good quality non-processed foods containing gluten and you are able to digest it. Gluten free packaged foods are a big industry now however they are just more processed food laden with harmful chemicals. You are better off eating good quality sourdough or whole grain bread. With giving up all grains there is a risk of not getting enough fiber. Fiber is necessary to maintain bowel health and keep everything “moving”, control blood sugar and cholesterol and also maintain and achieve a healthy weight. Ironically we have an epidemic of obesity, diabetes and people taking stain drugs which are three issues a high fiber diet can help.
Many times gluten is not the problem. Consuming processed or refined foods, sugar and non-organic foods that are sprayed with toxic chemicals affect our ability to absorb nutrients and also damage the digestive tract. This can lead to problems such as leaky gut. You are what you eat but also what you digest. If you cannot properly digest your food then you are not benefitting from all the rich minerals and nutrients that enable the body to achieve and maintain optimal health. So first get to the root cause of why gluten or any food is a problem for you. Make sure you read labels and if you cannot identify an ingredient put the item back. Try to eat as close to nature as possible and organic whenever your budget allows. You will never go wrong with fresh, local, organic whole foods and your body will thank you!
For more information about Celiac and gluten, go to: http://www.celiac.com