My husband brought up a great point this morning while eating our carb filled post workout meal. He said that many consumers today think that gluten free is another fad diet. This came to attention after seeing a new study aired on the news about Celiac's disease that morning. The study found that people who ate more gluten at a younger age were more likely to develop Celiac's disease when older. My husband sarcastically said, "Well it looks like I will be developing Celiac's sometime in the future."
While the news station of course did not provide a study link for me to investigate further, I gave my husband an ear full as his mouth was full with pineapple. He finished an omelette, pineapple cup and protein shake all before I was done ranting. So grab a snack, meal or both and listen up for some (gluten) free education here.
What is gluten?
The two definitions from the dictionary are as follows:
1. The mixture of proteins, including gliadins and glutelins, found in wheat grains, which are not soluble in water and which give wheat dough its elastic texture.
2. Any of the prolamins found in cereal grains, especially the prolamins in wheat, rye, barley, and possibly oats, that cause digestive disorders such as celiac disease.
What foods primarily contain gluten?
Bread, pastries, baked goods, pretzels, crackers, pastas.
What is wrong with gluten?
Here is where people get their panties in a bunch. Nothing is wrong with gluten if you tolerate gluten! Most of the time people report feeling better when removing gluten from their diet because they focus more on nutrient dense, wholesome foods. The gluten containing foods listed above are processed with sugar, salt and unhealthy fat that does not provide the body optimal energy. These kinds of foods are what have given carbs a bad reputation. They are created to be addicting and commonly consumed in caloric surplus portions. Healthy sources of carbohydrates like rice, oats, potatoes, quinoa and fruit are not to blame when eaten in moderate amounts.
The problem with gluten begins to appear with some of the following conditions:
Digestive issues like IBS, Crohn's, Gastroparesis and Ulcerative Colitis
Skin issues like eczema and psoriasis
Chronic joint pain and arthritis
PCOS or endometriosis
Having the health issues like the ones listed above does not mean go on a low carb diet or start eating gluten free Twinkies; it means focusing on the sources in which you get your carbohydrates from. I would recommend a different diet approach for different conditions/scenarios and find what truly fits for each. For example, someone with Ulcerative Colitis is going to tolerate white rice better than brown most often, but I would recommend a grain free diet for people with thyroid issues. Personalization people, personalization! The chicken, broccoli, brown rice diet is not your only answer, I promise!
When the immune system is compromised by a health condition, adding gluten to the mix can comprise it even more. Individuals who tolerate gluten fine absorb the proteins gluten contain. However, when the body does not tolerate it or has weakened immune systems, it sends antibodies to attack. Though you may say, "I feel fine when I eat gluten", it is not always about how you feel immediately when eating it; it is about how the body performs as a whole when eating it.
Should I be gluten free?
If struggling with the chronic health conditions above, I recommend yes.
If I tolerate gluten fine and have no health concerns, but want to lose weight, should I go gluten free?
No! I would start making better choices when it comes to carbs. If you start focusing on whole, nutrient dense foods, you are more than likely going to be unconsciously gluten free. Oats, potatoes, rice, quinoa, fruit... All healthy carbs and all gluten free!
My husband was right when he said gluten free has become a fad diet these days. People see gluten free and automatically think it is healthy. We have strayed away from whole foods, to relying on what a product is labeled.
As it relates to the news story, here is my two cents. This recent study was done during a time where our America's food culture has changed drastically. Young children are eating more processed food than ever and exposed to toxic conditions. They are growing in environments that are taxing their bodies and immune systems more prominently. With that being said, a vulnerable growing body that is being weakened more than strengthened is going to be more susceptible to external offenders. Like I mentioned above, gluten wreaks havoc on weakened immune systems.
So in my opinion, it is not solely the gluten to blame. It is the lifestyles we are raising these children in.
Mic drop. Nutrition Yoda out.