“All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.” -Helen Keller
“Gluten free” labels are popping up every where and you might be asking yourself what it means and if you are missing out on some big new solution to all your dietary problems. The truth is that you might be, but probably not. Certainly there are more people than ever who suffer gluten related problems. Here are a few possibilities on why:
1. You may be old enough to remember the advent of Wonder Bread. That very white, stretchy, doughy bread that many of us grew up eating. That soft white bread is made from adding extra gluten. Taking out all the fiber and other nutrients made it a one-two punch to the gut. Today almost all commercial breads add extra gluten, even whole grain.
2. Wheat is the primary source of most dietary gluten. The wheat we eat today hardly resembles the wheat your grandparents ate. Scientists have improved and changed wheat to help feed a hungry world, but in the process the gluten may have become altered and harder to digest.
3. We just eat way too much grain, especially wheat. Think about it. Cereal and toast for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner and cake for dessert. And then there are cookies, pretzels, donuts, crackers and vegetarians are eating fake meat made with grains and added gluten.
Those who are considering giving up gluten will fall into one of these three categories: those who have celiac disease, those who are gluten sensitive and the diet and health and conscious.
Celiac Disease – Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the small intestine and interferes with absorption of nutrients from food. People who have celiac disease cannot tolerate gluten, a protein in wheat, rye, and barley. The first step in the diagnosis of celiac disease is usually a set of blood tests to measure levels of certain auto antibodies. Unlike antibodies, which attack foreign substances in the body, auto antibodies attack the body’s own tissues. The auto antibodies that doctors usually measure to test for celiac disease are called immunoglobulin A (IgA), anti-tissue transglutaminase (tTGA), and IgA anti-endomysium antibodies (AEA). Before undergoing any celiac disease test (blood test or biopsy), it is important to continue to eat a regular gluten-containing diet. If you stop eating gluten and then get tested for celiac disease, the results may be falsely negative. Even then you may get a negative blood test result if you have celiac disease and may need further testing. If you do have celiac disease then you must have zero tolerance for gluten or risk damage to the small intestines.
Gluten Sensitive – People who are sensitive to gluten suffer gas, bloating, digestion problems similar to celiac disease and perhaps inflammation of joints and organs. It may interfere with absorption of nutrients and cause or contribute to hormone imbalance. If you choose to research this further you will find scores of opinion articles. We have had food villain hysteria before. Look what they have done to the poor egg, for example. Be thoughtful and careful in what you choose to believe. There is a lot of work being done in this field. Watch for solid studies.
Diet and Health Conscious – If you do not have any symptoms associated with gluten then there is no advantage in avoiding it specifically. A lot of people have jumped on the gluten free band wagon and have claimed great results. They are probably reaping the benefits of reduced sugar in their diet. If you don’t eat flour you will automatically reduce the sugar you eat since you are eliminating cake, cookies, pie, and donuts as well as other pound pilers like pasta and bagels. Remember sugar, sugar syrups and artificial sweeteners are the enemy to weight loss and good health.
“If you can find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere.” -Frank A. Clark