glutenfreeThe Gluten Illness Connection: What you must know to avoid illness.

I love bread and pasta, muffins and pastry. Growing up Italian, I enjoyed these foods tremendously. However now I notice many of my patients and I don’t feel as well when eating gluten. Symptoms can be vague like bloating, fatigue and mental fog. I seek answers as to why and have researched this topic and recommended to many of my patients to go gluten free for a while and see what happens when they add it back. I usually recommend this in conjunction with removing other foods that are not well tolerated to determine what foods may be causing unwanted symptoms or illness.

What is gluten and where is it found?

Gluten is a combination protein made from gliaden and glutenin and is found in grains such as *wheat, barley, rye, faro, semolina, farina, matzo meal, graham flour, bulgar, durham, kamut, kasha, spelt and triticale. Some oats are grown in fields with gluten containing grains and/or processed in plants that have gluten so they are often cross contaminated. Gluten is like a glue and it is hard to break down and digest. It makes dough elastic, rise and give it texture so it doesn’t crumble and fall apart. Since it’s a texturizer, it is found is many products such as:

  • Beer
  • Baked goods
  • Bread
  • Condiments
  • Cosmetics
  • Food additives
  • Gravy
  • Grains*
  • Malt
  • Pickles
  • Processed foods
  • Root beer
  • Salad dressings
  • Sauces
  • Seasonings
  • Soy sauce

Who should avoid gluten and why?

Gluten has an addictive quality and acts on the opioid receptors in your brain. It can make you feel high like morphine or drugs like opium. The more you have, the more you want. It gives rise to sugar and carbohydrate cravings and can cause symptoms of withdrawal when you stop. The amount of gluten in grains has increased tremendously and so has the rise of celiac disease and gluten intolerance. The University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center states the prevalence of celiac disease is:

  • In average healthy people: 1 in 133
  • In people with related symptoms: 1 in 56

Wheat is now different. Modern farming techniques and genetic engineering have changed the way wheat is grown and cultivated. Seeds may be treated with herbicides, pesticides and hormones to enhance growth. Chemicals are used to store wheat to prevent it from spoiling and processing can reduce nutrient content and cause sensitivities. All of these factors can disrupt your hormones, hamper digestion and make wheat a health hazard giving rise to many types of illnesses. So, who should avoid it?

Celiac Disease: If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease which is an autoimmune disorder from an allergy to gluten, you must completely eliminate gluten because this can be life threatening.

Since gluten is hard to digest and break down, the result is that undigested food particles can cause an immune response. Your immune cells can attack the lining of your intestines and cause it to break down. This causes the inability to absorb nutrients and an autoimmune reaction. In an autoimmune reaction,  your immune cells attack your own normal healthy tissue as if it’s a foreign invader. If you develop one autoimmune condition such as celiac disease, you are more likely to develop others such as Hashimotos thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, multiple sclerosis or others.

Gluten sensitivity or intolerance: If you have vague symptoms like fatigue, depression, weight gain, mental fog, gas, bloating, rashes, digestive disorders, arthritis, muscle aches, headaches, blood sugar abnormalities, osteoporosis, thyroid disease or vitamin deficiencies, consider a trial of going gluten free. Everyone who eats gluten does not develop full blown celiac disease. Many people develop low levels of inflammation in the gut from partially digested gluten. This impairs digestion and absorption and can give rise to a whole host of symptoms due to generalized inflammation throughout your body.

Consider a trial of gluten free if you have any conditions associated with gluten sensitivity:

  • Arthritis
  • Autism
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Cancer
  • Celiac disease
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Fatigue
  • Hashimotos thyroiditis
  • Irritable bowel
  • Lupus
  • Migraines
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Neuropathy
  • Obesity
  • Osteopenia and Osteoporosis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Schizophrenia

What do I eat then?

It can be easy to go gluten free since there are many more gluten free products on the market. You can now enjoy gluten free breads, pasta, pizza, baked goods and condiments. Be sure to check the labels. There are now many specialty gluten free restaurants, bakeries and stores that can be found locally or online.

You can eat naturally, readily available gluten free products such as:

  • Fresh or frozen unprocessed fruits and vegetables
  • Fresh or frozen unprocessed, meat, dairy, fish or poultry
  • Eggs, nuts, legumes
  • Fats and oils
  • Gluten free grains
  • Amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn, millet, quinoa, rice, soy, tapioca

It may take a little adjustment to cook but once you develop a habit it is easy.

  • Thicken sauces with arrowroot or corn starch
  • Substitute quinoa for cereal or use it in tabouli instead of bulghur wheat
  • Buy gluten free pasta, bread, cereal and condiments

Try it and be amazed

Go gluten free for at least 2 weeks and you may experience:

  • Relief of bloating, gas and digestive issues
  • Clear, glowing skin
  • Energy and clarity
  • Relief of headache, aches and pains
  • Better moods and sleep
  • Weight loss
  • Lower blood sugar and cholesterol

Lastly, if you have a more serious autoimmune disorder, it may take longer to feel any benefits. Be sure to read labels as gluten is hidden in many foods. However, it must be marked gluten free. Eat, drink and be healthy -gluten free!

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