by Ashley Ess
The American diet is packed with inflammatory foods. Meat, dairy and grains (especially those with gluten) all have the potential to cause mild to severe inflammatory responses in the body. As a nation primarily embracing the western model of healthcare and nutrition, we tend to put “band-aids” over certain physical symptoms, often overlooking the possibility of nutritional root causes. Many times diet and nutrition play larger roles in one’s physical suffering than one might expect. Gluten has been found to be a possible root cause of many conditions, giving rise to the prevalence of gluten free diets.
Critics condemn the gluten-free lifestyle as a fad, sloughing it off as simply the latest diet craze created by processed food corporations in order to get rich. But what they don’t realize is that it is imperative for a large number of people to eliminate gluten from their diets, specifically the gluten-sensitive and those with Celiac disease. Instead of a fad, perhaps the gluten-free diet should be viewed as a common necessity; a new awareness and healthful coming-of-age, so to speak.
This gluten-free “coming-of-age” undoubtedly has staying power. One simply cannot argue this if he/she has experienced reduced adverse symptoms once going gluten free. True, there will always be processed food brands capitalizing on popular diet trends, with their obnoxious, colorful labels touting “fat free,” “sugar free,” “carb free” and now “gluten free,” but this is a lifestyle that goes well beyond processed food labels. It’s a wonderful thing “gluten free” has made it onto these labels and into the mainstream; now the reality of its benefits can reach the minds and bodies of so many who have been suffering without relief in sight.
If the above hasn’t convinced you yet, below you’ll find six reasons (of many) why you might consider going gluten-free:
1. Gluten may cause inflammatory conditions in the body.
Oftentimes an inflamed digestive system is the most immediate effect of gluten’s inflammatory potential. Other conditions such as eczema, joint inflammation, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases may, in large part, be caused by the inflammation gluten sensitivity or intolerance produces. Inflammation weakens the immune system; eliminating gluten is one possible way to help avoid immune distress.
2. You may have gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease and not even know it – although your body does!
Celiac Disease is an inherited autoimmune condition that causes a toxic reaction in the sufferer’s small intestine. Those with Celiac Disease must stay away from gluten entirely, for the rest of their lives. Symptoms may include irritable bowel syndrome, abdominal pain, weakness, constipation, vitamin deficiencies, fatigue, bloating, failure to thrive (in infants) and much more. Surprisingly, Celiac Disease affects 1 out of 133 people in the U.S. and approximately 97% go undiagnosed. If left untreated, Celiac Disease may cause GI cancers, early onset osteoporosis, gall bladder malfunction, pancreatic insufficiency and more. The good news is that if you do have Celiac Disease, it is treatable by following a strict, lifelong gluten-free diet.
3. Most grains (especially processed) tend to have high-glycemic properties.
Foods with a high glycemic index can cause blood sugar irregularities and should be avoided by those with diabetes, hypoglycemia and insulin resistance. Those who crave grains, gluten-containing or otherwise, tend to also crave sugar (grains turn into sugar in the body). Eliminating or reducing grains (especially processed) may help insulin levels and, who knows? It may even help start you on your way to kicking that sugar habit!
4. Aren’t convinced of gluten’s propensity for adverse symptoms? Here’s something to consider: the FDA has placed wheat on its top eight allergens list.
Although having a wheat allergy does not necessarily mean gluten sensitivity, gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease, an allergy to wheat can present similar effects to these conditions and, therefore, wheat must be avoided. Humans have only been ingesting wheat and grains since the Agricultural Evolution (about 10,000 years ago) -- our genes have only changed a small fraction since then, hence we have not adapted to grains yet. So there may actually be something to another “fad” diet making the rounds these days, the Paleo Diet, which suggests that grains/gluten (as well as dairy) should not be consumed. This is guided by the fact that our predecessors survived on lean meats, fruits/vegetables and nuts/seeds and did not see the types of diseases, inflammation and autoimmune disorders we see today.
5. You might just feel better in general!
A gluten free diet may have a positive effect on depression, anxiety and energy level. People who remove gluten from their diets tend to eat more fruits and vegetables and less processed carbs. Gluten has been found to cause depression and anxiety as well. The result of going gluten free may be more energy, possible elevated mood and a happier gut!
6. Going gluten free is not as difficult as you may think.
Whether you’re going gluten free/grain free out of necessity, because you want to try to lose weight or because you just want to feel better, it may feel like a jail sentence at first. But it doesn’t have to be. Sure, it will take some adjusting while you get used to reading labels and learning what hidden ingredients contain gluten but once you get that down, you are set! Furthermore, you’ll find that you will eat more whole foods, less processed ones and there can’t be anything simpler than that – for your body as well as for your shopping routine.
Foods that contain gluten:
Derivatives of these grains
Oats (generally, by way of cross-contamination with gluten grains)
Foods and additives that have “hidden” gluten:
A more extensive list can be found here: http://www.healthcastle.com/gluten_hidden.shtml
*The information contained in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have a medical problem, see your licensed health practitioner.