What’s The Deal With This Gluten Thing?

The gluten-free health nut.  They are becoming more and more prominent, so common that many of us – even living where we do – have likely run into a Gluten-free guru at some point.  Or perhaps you have seen “gluten-free” labels in the grocery store, wondering what that means for your health.  Should you splurge the extra cash and get the item that is gluten free?  Is that truly healthier for you?  Let’s help sort out the reason for the new gluten-free hype.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.  One gluten molecule is not problematic for anyone. However, compared to 100 years ago, the average American consumes extreme amounts of gluten today.  Furthermore, the food manufacturing industry can’t get enough of gluten. It makes bread stretchy and soft, and keeps margarine, cheese spreads, dips, mustard, and canned meats smooth and predictable. The wheat we have today has a much higher concentration of gluten proteins than back in the day.

Not only is wheat difficult for our bodies to handle because of the excess gluten, but wheat also increases blood sugar at alarming rates.  A study done way back in 1981 at the University of Toronto revealed that the glycemic index, or the level that blood sugar rises when something is eaten, is highest in a piece of whole grain bread (72) when compared to white bread (69), Pure sugar (yes, I said PURE SUGAR) (59) and even a Mars bar (68).  The implications of that information are huge considering the wheat-saturated food industry we are faced with at our grocery stores and restaurants and the obesity and diabetes epidemic plaguing our country.  Cutting out wheat can – and has – helped many regulate their blood sugar and drop the difficult to lose weight.

Additional symptoms that have been linked to wheat and gluten intake include:

  • Weight gain
  • Sore muscles
  • Achiness
  • Headaches
  • Hives
  • Skin rashes
  • Gastrointestinal upset
  • Constipation
  • Brain Fog
  • Sugar cravings
  • Depression
  • Dairy intolerance

These kinds of reactions occur when our bodies cannot break down the proteins found in wheat. At such times, our immune system recognizes a food particle as bad and attacks it, sending out inflammatory messengers to attack the food particle and eliminate it from our bodies. This is why you may feel ill without knowing that the source of your illness is the food you eat – wheat.

Going gluten and wheat free does require some careful planning, but can be easy when you surround yourself with the right resources and support. It can have a very prominent effect on your health and vitality. Once your shopping lists are overhauled and your cooking habits altered- slightly – eliminating gluten can become a seamless process.