Let's Get Clear: Gluten
For the first of many “Let’s Get Clear” series, I am hoping to help you better understand one of the trendier health topics that has been around for quite some time now: whether or not to eat gluten.
A lot of people have decided to go gluten free and we are seeing more and more products that are marketed as gluten free. But what is gluten exactly, why might we want to avoid it and how? Let’s get down to it!
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and derivatives of these grains. It comes from the Latin word meaning, “glue,” and helps foods maintain their shape acting as an adhesive that holds various ingredients together. For example, it is the thing in wheat that helps bread dough stick together and keep its shape.
The enzymes necessary to support the digestion of gluten are heat sensitive and mostly destroyed in the cooking process. So, when we eat bread for example, we are not consuming the naturally occurring enzymes making it really hard for our bodies to breakdown into nutrients. Our bodies are really amazing and try to make up for this by overproducing its’ own digestive enzymes, but we can’t produce them fast enough to keep up with how much gluten we are consuming – which then leads to gluten sensitives and intolerances.
This is why gluten has gotten its bad rep and is considered one the most inflammatory foods we can eat. Once we do eat it, undigested gluten does the same thing it would in baked goods – it acts like an adhesive but in our digestive system and blocks the absorption of nutrients, which is what causes the inflammation.
Some symptoms that result from this inflammation can include: gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort, fatigue, depression/anxiety, mental fog, constipation, bone/joint pain, headaches, skin issues, iron-deficiency anemia, and more.
Now, just because you probably have experienced one of the above symptoms does not mean you are allergic to gluten or have a sensitivity. And you are probably wondering by now if you should hop on the bandwagon and ditch the gluten.
I am sure most of you reading this have heard of celiac disease, and know that those diagnosed with celiac need to avoid gluten. To find out if you are celiac, you would have to consult your doctor. However, there is such a thing as gluten sensitives, and the best way to find out if you fall into that category is to do an elimination diet. That is when you remove gluten from your diet for an extended period of time (around 2-3 weeks) and then reintroduce it and see if symptoms arise.
That is exactly what I did and it helped resolve a lot of my stomach issues, like acid reflux. This is also something I support my clients in doing, and do recommend having guidance and support while conducting elimination diets.
There are also probably some people reading this, shaking their head because gluten does not bother them, and that is great! The most important thing to always remember is to listen to YOUR body. If you feel great, have high energy, go to the bathroom regularly (yup, that’s important!) are getting good sleep, etc. etc. then no need to change your diet or lifestyle. However, if something seems off and some of the above symptoms are reoccurring then it might be worth considering.
Thinking about considering it? If so, know that avoiding gluten is really not that hard or bad! There are so many products out there that are gluten free and amazing substitutes! For me, the hardest part when I first went gluten free was actually finding that I was eating foods where gluten was hiding and didn’t seem as obvious, like soy sauce. Always read the ingredient list so you can ensure that whatever you are buying does not contain something you want to avoid. Also, just because something says its gluten free does not mean it is healthy – so checking the ingredients list is super important to make sure you are not eating something full of random fillers and things you can’t pronounce!
In case you wanted to give gluten free a try, I have listed some of my favorite substitutes below. I am always here to offer anyone guidance or support, so feel free to reach out to me directly by heading to my Connect page - I would be thrilled to hear from you!
Gluten Free Go-To’s