By Grace Van Berkum, R.H.N. As featured in Sweat Equity Magazine
Gluten-free is a big craze right now. Just because it is trendy doesn’t necessarily mean it is right or good for you. Know your facts about gluten, where it comes from, where it is hidden, and how your body reacts to it. Knowledge is power. Here are 16 interesting facts about gluten:
1) Gluten is everywhere. It is a group of proteins found in wheat, barley, rye, triticale, malt, brewer’s yeast, wheat starch, and wheat derivatives like wheat berries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, and farina. There has been a dramatic increase in gluten-containing foods in our current highly processed food world combined with a modification of the grain itself causing distress to our bodies. For a complete list of gluten foods and hidden sources of gluten see www.celiac.com. 2) Although oats are technically gluten-free, but many brands may be contaminated with gluten during processing. Always buy certified gluten-free oats. 3) Gluten is also hidden in pizza, pasta, bread, wraps, rolls, and most processed foods, including salad dressings sauces, soup mixes, crackers, and desserts. 4) Gluten is linked to many diseases and conditions. 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, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, and almost all other autoimmune diseases. 5) Gluten, latin for “glue”. Think of glue in your body and intestines...of course it is going to wreak havoc on most people.
6) The most serious form of allergy to gluten, celiac disease, affects one in 100 people, or three million Americans, most of who don’t know they have it. Milder forms of irritation are even more common, and they include wheat allergy or gluten sensitivity, possibly affecting up to one-third of the American population. 7) Gluten is also linked to many psychiatric and neurological diseases, including mood disorders, emotional issues, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, dementia, migraines, epilepsy, and neuropathy (nerve damage), and even autism. 8) Common symptoms of gluten sensitivities are stomach pains, burping, heart burn, constipation, diarrhea, brain fog, depression, anxiety, and general fatigue. Also pay attention to headaches, joint and muscle pain, and even tingling or numbness in the hands and feet. Staying away from gluten in a few short weeks should diminish these symptoms quickly. 9) Just because something is gluten-free does not make it healthy. Many gluten-free things are over-processed, filled with toxic sugars, fats, chemicals, additives, and preservatives. Read your labels and eat fresh foods as much as possible.
10) The easiest way to find out how gluten is affecting you is the Elimination/Reintegration Diet where you take ALL gluten out of your diet for 3-6 weeks. After 6 weeks you re-introduce it slowly, watching your body for uncomfortable symptoms over the next 3 days. For this test to be effective, you need to remove gluten from your diet 100%. It is also advised that you get blood work done to determine if you have severe issues. There are gluten allergy/celiac disease tests that help identify various forms of allergy or sensitivity to gluten or wheat. 11) Popular nutrient-dense, gluten-free grains include: quinoa (must rinse saponins off before you cook), buckwheat (does not contain wheat even though wheat is in the name), brown rice, millet, teff, and amaranth. Experiment with all of them!
12) Did you know that gluten can be hidden in shampoo, lipstick, and even envelope labels that you lick?
13) A recent large study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people with diagnosed, undiagnosed, and “latent” celiac disease or gluten sensitivity had a higher risk of death, mostly from heart disease and cancer.
14) Even if you don’t have an existing gluten allergy or wheat sensitivity, it is best to avoid conventional wheat and gluten to avoid future problems. Use organic, fresh foods, and whole grains whenever possible.
15) According to the Healthy Home Economist, common wheat harvest protocol in the United States is to drench the wheat fields with Monsanto’s Roundup several days before the combine harvesters work through the fields. Apparently when you expose wheat to a toxic chemical like glyphosate, it actually releases more seeds resulting in a greater yield and easier harvest. (Glyphosate in Roundup is toxic and contributes to inflammation, intestinal wall permeability, and gut dysbiosis, which always leads to serious imbalances of the body if not treated. According to many scientist, doctors, and researchers, It would appear that it is not really gluten that is causing us problems, it is the years of consumption of Monsanto’s Roundup sprayed on wheat crops for bigger yields.
16) Other surprising hidden sources of gluten? Licorice, alcohol, instant coffee, spices, soy sauce, and chewing gum! Do your research always.