“It seems that gluten-free products are everywhere these days, and like many of your health-conscious, smoothie-sipping, label-reading friends, you may be wondering if a gluten-free diet is right for you. And in a culture where pastries, pizza and pasta dominate the standard diet, you might also want to know why wheat is suddenly getting such a bad rap.
Why Grains Cause Pains
Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye, and it’s even lurking in many sauces, condiments, frozen foods and beauty products. It gives breads their sticky, chewy elasticity and similarly, helps the elements in shampoo, hair products or condiments bind together.
So, what does it do to your insides?
You probably know that for those with celiac disease, exposure to gluten can cause a host of uncomfortable symptoms that range from mild irritations to major problems: headaches, bloating, joint pain, skin rashes, mood issues, intestinal damage and malnutrition, to name a few.
What doctors have discovered more recently, however, is that many patients who test negative for celiac disease still experience symptoms when they’re exposed to gluten. Nonceliac gluten sensitivity is the phrase coined by the medical community for this phenomenon, which seems to be a continuum – some patients appear to be fine eating small amounts of gluten, while others can’t tolerate gluten at all.
Are you confused yet? Join the club.
Conventional medicine is extremely divided when it comes to gluten sensitivity. Doctors still don’t agree on what causes the ailment, precisely what the symptoms include, how many people suffer from it, or even how to diagnose it properly. Yet studies are beginning to show that people without celiac disease report better health outcomes when they eliminate gluten: less pain and bloating, increased regularity, higher energy levels and fewer mood issues.
So if improved health and weight loss can result from cutting out gluten, why isn’t everyone doing it?
Many people may be unaware that gluten is the culprit behind their health issues. Additionally, going gluten free can seem like an intimidating step if your diet is heavy on processed foods. However, giving up gluten is one of the first things I recommend to my patients, as it can lead to sweeping changes in your overall health, vitality, energy and mood.
This Isn’t Your Grandma’s Bread
While gluten has become ubiquitous in our modern diet, humans only began consuming wheat – and adapting to digesting it – about 10,000 years ago. This means that for thousands of years we lived on a diet completely free of wheat products. Moreover, the breads, pastas and wheat products we eat today are largely genetically modified, contaminated with toxins and pesticides and processed in such a way that the human body can’t properly break them down or assimilate their nutrients.
The result? Conditions like inflammation, weight gain, irritable bowel syndrome, food allergies and more. It’s also possible that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) can predispose people to gluten-related disorders, which means that gluten sensitivity can develop over time. So the pancakes you enjoyed Saturday mornings as a kid may now leave you feeling like you ate a bag of rocks for breakfast.
Simply put, the bread you eat today isn’t your grandmother’s bread.”