I thought it was about time to get my thoughts on the subject of the gluten issue out there. Most of the people out there are simply selling their uneducated beliefs. I got a bit sad about the fact that so many proclaimed health and wellness bloggers shame the gluten-free diet, entirely neglecting the fact that some of us truly cannot have gluten in their diet. In addition, these people are also completely ignoring the current research and are only picking out what they want to hear in order to justify their own consumption.
As a little disclaimer, I must say I am simply a health and wellness enthusiast without a legit education in the proclaimed field. That is why I encourage you to do your own research, ask a health care professional or talk to your trusted nutritionist. I’ve included the studies, I am drawing my facts from at the bottom of this article. Surely, you can send those to your doctor to get an educated opinion as well. However, it is truly time for an opposing thought when it comes to the gluten issue.
I myself became aware of the fact that I am not doing as well with eating gluten-containing products a couple of years ago. Hence, I started on quitting gluten-containing products all on my own. I felt a huge difference in my stomach’s sensitivity and eliminated quite a lot of stomach aches. However, to make sure I wasn’t simply imagining all of this, I got tested by a doctor who specializes in allergies and intolerances. Finally, he confirmed my intuition and proofed that I might have this new age problem of gluten-intolerance. I call it new age because it is an area that is only starting to be explored and researched.
What is Gluten?
Gluten belongs to a group of proteins that can be found in grains like wheat, rye, barley and spelt. The two main proteins of this group are called glutenin and gliadin. Both are likely to cause negative health effects. In the typical grains of today, you can find high amounts of gluten since it also has been added in higher quantities to grains in order to have a larger production and to be able to feed more humans and animals. Gluten basically acts as a glue to make the dough more elastic and gives the bread the ability to rise which obviously makes it larger and satisfies the consumer faster.
Types of diseases & the perceived benefit
When it comes to gluten there are a couple of negative health symptoms connected to it. The most well-known disease is obviously celiac. Celiac disease is an auto-immune condition. People who have celiac are often experiencing severe pains, indigestion, bloating, depression and much more since their body rejects the protein and attacks it. In addition, to attacking the protein the body also attacks gut-lining which can result in major health risks.
Then there is gluten-sensitivity. This is a condition whereby one doesn’t test positive for celiac disease whereby experiencing symptoms of stomach aches, bloating, depression etc. However, the gut-lining is not attacked in this case. The condition of gluten-sensitivity is confirmed when celiac and other allergies are ruled out whilst a negative reaction keeps persisting. In addition, I need to address the fact here, that there is also something called a wheat allergy. In this case, someone reacts to other parts contained in wheat and therefore falls into a whole other category. Lastly, I do not want to neglect the studies on the perceived benefit of not eating gluten whereby people simply by the thought of not consuming gluten felt better than previously.
Surprising Reasons To Give Up Gluten
Now we are getting to the good stuff. Hence, this is the really interesting and rather exciting part of the whole subject. The following facts are drawn out of studies and are merely there to give you food for thought. In the end, as I said these are still areas that need to be explored further. However, there is strong evidence that gluten might not be all too good for our bodies anyway.
- More than 55 negative health conditions can be linked to the consumption of gluten. As stated above the immune system of a gluten-sensitive human sends antibodies to attack the inflammatory gluten. The gliadin found in the protein family often mistakingly attacks other organs in the human body. This can range from the skin, the thyroid to the brain. Researchers call the process, molecular mimicry and indicate that people sensitive to gluten are often also sensitive to other foods with similarly structured proteins. The fact is that potentially the gluten you consume causes other issues outside of the digestive system. To these issues, researchers count rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid condition. Both of those negative health problems are potentially caused by the previously described molecular mimicry.
- The inflammation caused by the consumption of gluten suggests that eating gluten can give you bad skin. The skin is your biggest organ and can be highly sensitive to hormonal fluctuations caused by constant irritation of the body through gluten and the production of the stress hormone named cortisol. Higher cortisol levels can potentially lead to weight gain, sleep issues, and acne.
- Have you heard about the gut-brain connection? Yes, this is a thing. 90-95% of your serotonin is made in the gut. Most importantly, serotonin is the number one neurotransmitter in charge of mood regulation. Being deficient in serotonin can lead to depression and anxiety-related conditions. Where does gluten fit into this? Yet again, gluten potentially damages the gut. In fact, it is ought to be poorly digested and therefore potentially leads to bacteria and yeast overgrowth. The latter could be responsible for reducing serotonin production. In contrast, the bacteria produced causes chemicals to mimic neurotransmitters. Through getting into the brain they have the ability to facilitate mood swings, depression, and anxiety.
To wrap this up, please note that gluten is a protein that can linger in our bodies for over six months. Therefore, there is no such thing as being gluten-free one day and consuming gluten on another day. However, please do not simply swap your diet to a diet consisting of foods from the gluten-free aisle of your supermarket. The foods sold there most likely contain an overload of artificial sugars, increased amounts of fat and highly processed ingredients. Simply stick to your plant-based whole foods diet and you will be fine. In the end, you can refer to carbohydrates from buckwheat, gluten-free oats, millet, and rice to substitute for the gluten-containing grains in your favorite dishes.
(Reference: Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity, Intestinal cell damage and systemic immune activation in individuals reporting sensitivity to wheat in the absence of coeliac disease, The gluten, gut, and thyroid connection, What is gluten?, Celiac disease)