Have you taken a look recently of all of the gluten-free cookbooks available online and in the bookstores? I definitely have a few- The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen, The Hungry Hottie Cookbook, The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook and the very popular Wheat Belly Cookbook by Dr. William Davis.
Although going gluten-free is the hottest new trend right now, I have been living gluten-free for almost twenty years, after discovering that eating pasta and bread made my shoulder and hip joints ache, caused extreme abdominal bloating and sausage-sized fingers!
I want to help navigate through the hype. Is there a health benefit to going on a gluten-free diet and restricting your guilty pleasures to possibly help you feel more energy and have laser sharp mental focus? Will it help you lose those few inches around your muffin top to get into those fabulous skinny jeans? Or do you have a young child that scratches constantly with skin allergies and no topical cream can treat it? Let’s see if going gluten-free is worth all the trouble!
So what is Gluten?
Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in wheat and in many other cereal grains, including rye, barley, triticale (a cross between wheat and rye), and other varieties of wheat, including spelt, kamut, bulgur, semolina, farro, and durum. Although oats are naturally gluten-free, it is often included in the gluten family since most oat crops in the US have been cross contaminated by neighboring wheat fields; increasing the percentage of gluten proteins in oat products.
What is the Difference Between Gluten Intolerance, Gluten Allergy and Celiac Disease?
A gluten intolerance or allergy should not be confused with Celiac Disease. Gluten intolerance is when you experiences adverse symptoms, often delayed, where there is a disturbance to the normal physiology of your organs and systems like the gut, lungs, skin and musculoskeletal system but without a build up of antibodies to the gluten protein.
A gluten allergy is when the body believes that the protein is a harmful molecule and the immune system produces antibodies, which triggers mild to severe allergy symptoms, sometimes severe enough to potentially cause a fatal reaction. Most gluten allergy symptoms are related to hives, itching, swelling and breathing issues.
People who are allergic to wheat often can tolerate other “ancient” grains such as quinoa and amaranth. However, studies show that approximately 20 percent of children with wheat allergy also are allergic to other grains such as rice and corn.
Celiac disease is caused by an abnormal autoimmune reaction to the small intestine triggered by ingesting gluten proteins. Celiac disease should to be diagnosed by a gastroenterologist with blood tests and intestinal biopsies. If left untreated, it can cause serious complications, including malnutrition and intestinal damage.
Am I Gluten Intolerant?
Do you have any of these following symptoms after eating foods made of gluten grains including wheat, rye, barley, triticale, spelt, kamut and oats?
Gluten Sensitivity/Intolerance Checklist:
- Abdominal bloating-Abdominal pain
- Acid Reflux
- Nasal congestion
- Foggy brain
- Joint pain
If you have two or more of these symptoms after eating a gluten meal, you may want to try a gluten-free diet for four weeks. If your symptoms subside, reintroduce some wheat products back into your dietary protocol; see if your symptoms come back. If so, you may live a healthier and happier life by finding alternatives to gluten.
Living gluten-free means avoiding foods that contain wheat, rye, barley, oats, kamut, spelt, triticale and faro.
There are many alternatives to gluten grains found in health food stores, Asian markets and increasingly in traditional grocery stores.
Here are some Gluten-Free foods:
- white rice
- brown rice
- wild rice
- white potato
- sweet potato
- chia, flax, and hemp seeds
- mung bean starch
- all nuts
How One Patient Changed Her Life
Jean presented into my office with low energy, a bloated abdomen, embarrassing gas and had loose bowel movements six to seven times a day. She thought she had parasites because every time she ate, she would have to run to the bathroom. Her typical meal plan included:
Breakfast- Wheat toast with strawberry jam
Lunch- Turkey, tomato and lettuce on rye bread
Dinner-Italian pasta with marinara sauce and spinach
She ate some form of gluten grain at every meal! At first she was reluctant to change her diet but was willing to try anything since nothing was working. I asked her to avoid all gluten grains, and gave her many alternatives like quinoa pasta with Bolognese sauce, corn tortilla turkey roll ups, sweet potato and brown rice porridge for breakfast. Two weeks living gluten-free, she came into the office with a bounce in her step, was only having one to two normal bowel movements a day and loved her flat belly!