I’m learning that a lot of people don’t really get the whole gluten-free thing. And why would they? It’s not highly publicized, although if you look around, gluten-free products are popping up EV-ER-Y-WHERE. (Which is great! We ate at Iron Hill Brewery on Saturday night, and they have a two-page gluten-free menu. It was fabulous.)
The hardest thing about it is that you really can’t have even a trace if you a) want to determine if you are truly sensitive and b) want your body to completely heal. So while I didn’t want to go around announcing my new diet at every social gathering, I do have to look at food labels if I’m going to have anything to eat. So it inevitably comes out that I’ve gone gluten-free, and then the questions begin. Usually I just say I tested sensitive to it, and that’s true, and that’s enough for most people. But some people are curious and want to know more.
I just ordered a book about it that I’ve been wanting to read, but then I talked to my friend Katie over at Kitchen Stewardship, and she pointed me to a series of posts she has done on the topic, as her family has recently gone gluten and grain-free due to her husband’s sensitivity. Her first post, Katie Learns About Gluten, pretty much sums up the entire situation. In typical Katie style, she has done her research and presents it in a way that is easy to digest.
Ha! Digest! I’m so punny. Sorry, I’m feeling a little punchy this morning.
So anyway, if you’re wondering what the deal is with gluten, go read her post. I’m sending it to every friend and relative who asks me about it. It’s so much easier than trying to explain it myself! (The comments are interesting as well.)
A couple key points for those of you too lazy busy to read:
Gluten is simply a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It is what allows the elasticity of bread dough and thus the nice, fluffy rise we like in our bread products, and it also helps bread hold its shape and absorb liquids.
For many people (I hesitate to say “most” anymore after the research for this post), gluten is simply another food. For an unknown number of folks, gluten causes their immune system to go into overdrive.
Evidently Celiac is an autoimmune disease whereby even a speck of gluten can cause distress for weeks.
Celiacs should not have even a speck of wheat/gluten, or they become ill and have awful internal consequences that they might not even be able to feel until later. A study from a year ago in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that celiacs have a 39% increased risk of death, mainly from heart disease and cancer, than the average population.
Then there are those with a gluten sensitivity.
Many people who do not have Celiac disease do have inflammation of the gut related to a gluten sensitivity manifesting itself in many ways.
It’s possible that one-third of the American population has a gluten sensitivity.
How do you know?
If you think you might have a gluten sensitivity, you can test yourself by eliminating ALL gluten from your life for 2-4 weeks (including lipsticks, soy sauce, shampoo, potentially contaminated oats, etc. Do your research.). If when you try gluten again you feel horrible, that’s a pretty clear answer.
I love her precautions to help avoid developing a gluten issue at the end of the article. I am implementing all of these at my house to hopefully prevent my kids from developing this same issue.
There is so much more information in her post. If you want to know more, of if you suspect you or someone you love may be sensitive, go read her post in its entirety AND the comment section. The symptoms can range from debilitating migraines to digestive issues to depression to lack of nutrient absorption (probably why I have low iron) and on and on.
From the Huffington Post:
A review paper in The New England Journal of Medicine listed 55 “diseases” that can be caused by eating gluten. These include osteoporosis, irritable bowel disease, inflammatory bowel disease, anemia, cancer, fatigue, canker sores, and rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy (nerve damage). It has also been linked to autism.
I know, what hasn’t? But anyway, it’s worth considering, if you have one of these issues.
Like lactose intolerance, gluten sensitivities tend to develop later in life, as our bodies reach a tipping point. In other words, those of us who are predisposed to be sensitive can only handle so much before our bodies start to rebel.
For those who say we’ve been eating wheat since Bible times, so why all of the sudden is this issue on the rise? It is helpful to note:
Wheat was introduced to the European diet (this is mostly a white person’s problem) in the Middle Ages, and a few hundred years isn’t really long enough to completely adapt to a new food.
Anyway, that’s the long and the short of it. I already feel so much better, I can’t even tell you. I have more energy, I don’t feel bloated anymore, and I’m hoping that the next time my iron levels are tested, I will no longer be deficient. Only time will tell, but I’m optimistic.