10 Things You Need to Know Before You Go Gluten Free
When folks begin dabbling in the world of alternative health solutions, often dietary changes are a large part of the new way to approach health and wellness. None is more prolific than the “gluten free” dietary change. So, what is this all about? Is gluten free right for you? What is gluten anyway? Is it a fad or a necessity to healthy living? I plan to give you a general primer on the biological arguments for gluten free living, as well as common pitfalls should you go this route.
Gluten free eating actually hits close to home for me. While, at this moment, I am not eating a gluten free diet, I cook gluten free meals daily. This is because my husband has an anaphalactic allergy to many grains, particularly those of the gluten-containing variety. As someone who entered this relationship with no prior gluten free cooking experience, I’m here to say it is absolutely an approachable to maintainable shift should you determine gluten free dining is for you.
What is Gluten?
First, what is this mysterious gluten? Gluten is the general term for a protein found in many grains, including wheat, rye and barley.
What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder that causes gluten to damage the small intestine. It is said to affect approximately one in one hundred americans. It can affect you at any point in your life, even if it was not previously a known issue.
Can I have issues with gluten if I don’t have celiac disease?
Yes. For many reasons, that could fill a whole article alone, environmental and biological influences can lead to grain intolerances. Or, even when an intolerance is not present, it could be argued that wheat and other gluten containing grains simply have multiple downsides when it comes to ingestion, and one may find they feel generally better without gluten in their life. Sometimes, it isn’t actually the gluten causing the problem, but another component of wheat. Going gluten free though can be a quick way to check how your body responds.
What are the negative effects of gluten and gluten containing grains?
– Spikes insulin levels
– High phosphorous to calcium ratio which can lead to leached calcium from bones
– Contain anti-nutrients which can disturb digestion
Possible symptoms of gluten intolerance (note that many other things can cause these same symptoms)
– Digestion issues
– Depression and anxiety
– Brain Fog
– Lowered Immunity
– Dental Issues
– Hormonal Imbalances
– Joint or muscle pain
– Extreme Fatigue
What foods contain gluten?
– Any foods made with wheat starch, white flour, enriched flour, wheat flour etc. Cookies, cakes, breads, cupcakes, crackers, soups thickened with flour, gravies or sauces thickened with flour or wheat starch, cereals or other foods made with barley malt, noodles, pitas, flour tortillas etc. (This is not a comprehensive list)
Can I start eating gluten again?
A few things to note if you choose to eliminate gluten and add it back in. Some studies suggest that previously minor responses to gluten can become major responses when someone eliminates in and then adds it back into the diet. On the other hand, addressing hyper inflammatory or auto-immune states with diet designed to increase metabolic rate (look up nutritionist Ray Peat or Kate Deering for more information on that type of diet) can often remove the negative affects you previously may have experienced when eating wheat. Just have both of these possibilities in your mind if you decide to shift your diet one way or the other.
1. Eating oats.
While oats are technically gluten free, this grain is very prone to cross contamination. It doesn’t mean all oats are off the table for you, in fact it adds a good bit of variety to the gluten free diet, but be cautious. Look for oats labeled as gluten free and be sensitive to your bodily signals. It may be that oats simply are too risky for you.
2. Replacing gluten containing foods with cheap and unhealthy replacements
A lot of gluten free packaged foods contains gums, oils and flours that are nutrient deficient at best, and bad for your body at worst. While the temptation may be to buy a bunch of packaged gluten free products under the guise of “health”, you are often better off eliminating the processed version altogether and making your own version or finding a different natural substitute.
3. Assuming that all gluten will bother you.
Unless you know you have celiac disease, you may find that your level of tolerance may be affected by a few things. Origins of the grain (organic). Genetic modification. Sprouting grains before use. Fermentation, or other similar methods to make the grain more digestible. For example, true sourdough bread, not sourdough from the grocery store, can often be much more easily digested.
I don’t intend this article to fully address everything there is to know about going gluten free. There are many other books, articles and websites that do just that. But, hopefully this gives you a better understanding of whether or not to consider the gluten free route.
Sources: Celiac.org, www.glutenfreeschool.com, “How to Heal your Metabolism” by Kate Deering