Is Gluten bad for you?
A few friends friends of mine avoid eating Gluten. This seems to be happening a lot lately; I don't remember hearing anything about Gluten when I was a kid.
I'm not sure what to make of all this. Should everyone reduce/avoid gluten, or only some people? What happens when someone who has a Gluten allergy eats Gluten? How do people know if they have a Gluten allergy?
The reason why we have only begun to hear of the dangers of gluten is because today's wheat is far different from the wheat we used several decades ago. It has been genetically altered (not GMO, but changed) so that the crops can be more prolific and able to withstand severe weather. This changed the gluten protein (gliadin) into something our bodies have never encountered before. Since it entered our food supply, the average caloric intake and cases of autoimmune disorders have increased. Experts in the field estimate that up to 60 percent of the population has some level of gluten sensitivity. They have also found that not all who experience negative effects from gluten in the diet test positive for celiac disease. Antibodies that aren't related to celiac but are produced in response to gliadin can attack any tissue in your body, which is why many who have thyroid issues, rheumatoid arthritis, or even schizophrenia find relief with a gluten-free diet. All of these issues and more can occur when someone with a gluten allergy eats gluten, but not everyone has an allergy; you could have a gluten intolerance where you don't produce the enzymes necessary to digest it, or you could have a sensitivity, meaning that it gives you headaches, gas, or other issues soon after you eat it. Gluten damages the intestinal lining to some degree. Those who aren't sensitive to gluten won't have recognizable damage, but those who have celiac develop holes in their intestinal lining that allow pathogens and food particles to escape into the bloodstream, which is how the symptoms become so severe. Many who try out a gluten-free diet find that they feel a lot better: they have more energy, they lose fat around the belly, and their digestion improves, to name a few. Grains aren't a necessary part of the diet--in fact, they remove certain minerals from your body--so replacing them with other whole foods won't cause you to lose any nutrients.
I discovered that I have a wheat and gluten allergy through consultation with a naturopath. Since avoiding wheat and gluten I have had more energy, my body is not bloated all the time and I feel and look "better". Not everybody should or needs to avoid gluten or wheat. However a detox from eating wheat and gluten can be a healthy way to stimulate metaboloism and give your body a break from processing foods which technically we were not designed to eat. Someone who is gluten sensitive like me can have trace amounts from time to time. However full blown celiacs must avoid wheat and gluten at all costs. It is a very serious and complex condition which can do real harm to the sufferer.
My paternal aunt (aged 81) cannot tolerate gluten. Also, my daughter was assessed with mild to moderate autism when she was four. In my studies on autism, I learned that wheat should be avoided by autistic persons. Other grains that have a fairly high content of gluten are rye, oats, barley, and spelt. Personally, I have been experiencing moderate problems with intestinal gas, so I focus on whole grains, such as millet, quinoa, buckwheat groats, corn, and rice (wild is great!). The rule of thumb for grains is to eat two portions of green vegetables, preferably fresh, with every portion of grain (one portion = 1/2 cup). And, I cannot impress enough on the benefits of exercise--the body's digestion becomes more efficient. Bon appetitie!
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