by Michael Corsilles, ND, PA-C~Anyone else have a friend that went “gluten-free” who is now noticing a tremendous benefit in their health?
They might mention their headaches went away, gas and bloating disappeared, energy improved, and even lowered waist size and weight on the scale. Sounds like it might be worth it to at least try to go gluten-free.
Gluten is a major protein in wheat, rye, and barley. It’s the binding agent that keeps baked goods from falling apart and makes breads soft and fluffy. This pervasive protein is in most types of breads, baked goods, noodles, pizza and as an ingredient in many processed foods.
Gluten can lead to inflammation:
My ultimate goal for eliminating or at least minimizing gluten is to lower inflammation. Foods can lower our pH, making a more acidic environment, which is linked to inflammation. Most folks are familiar with gout – eat too much red meat or drink too much alcohol, and you’ll get a red, swollen, painful joint. When inflammation gets out of hand (from chronic food indulging, especially gluten), it is actually one of the biggest contributors to chronic disease like diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disease, allergies, heart disease and cancer. A general rule of thumb is: grains, sugar, and meats are acidic while fruits and vegetables are alkaline, and more acidity contributes to inflammation. And Gluten definitely has been linked to inflammation.
The inflammation issue centers around the fact that many of us eat gluten with every single meal. Count how often you eat gluten foods every day. How often do you eat cereal for breakfast, a sandwich at lunch, and pasta at dinner? Now keep in mind that for the most part I still think we should still have grains part of our diet. People have broken bread from back in the Bible days and will continue to eat bread.
Although I feel that gluten-free is a trend, I’m all for riding this wave because gluten is so pervasive in our diets. The bigger issue with gluten is with this “new gluten.” I’m talking about GMO – genetically modified organisms.
We continue to expose our immune systems with proteins like gluten – particularly the genetically engineered and altered versions of it and many other foods. Our immune system has never, in the history of humankind, been previously exposed to these “Frankenfoods” and is not adapting well. Our gastrointestinal tract is lined with a strong defense system because our gut is essentially the first barrier to the outside world (the foods, liquids, and bacteria that get ingested must get “screened” by the immune system). The pervasiveness of GMO in most processed foods create an immune response leading to chronic inflammation. I feel that food allergies and intolerances are essentially side effects of a diet filled with GMO grains like gluten.
Is eating gluten-free safe?
Yes! As mentioned before, many who go gluten-free notice tremendous benefit by lowering the inflammatory response. However, keep in mind that eating gluten-free doesn’t give you permission to eat as much gluten-free food as you want. Many gluten-free items are very refined, sometimes even more so than processed white bread.
It’s a cliché, but everything in moderation. Just because something is natural, it doesn’t mean it’s safe. Sugar is natural (well, organic sugar at least) but if you eat enough of sugar, you’ll be like 1/3 of Americans now – obese and diabetic, which is a disheartening statistic by itself.
Also, we tend to get caught up with the same foods with our busy lifestyles. Once you find a food you like, you stick to it a little too often. So even the gluten-free folks can end up eating refined, gluten-free alternatives too often such as rice pasta and rice breads. Remember, everything in moderation, so rotate different foods into and out of your diet. By simply eating a variety of healthy, organic foods, this will help put the brakes on chronic inflammation.
The bottom line:
Nutrition plays a huge role in health. Foods can act as medicine but also as poison. If you overwhelm the body with genetically engineered gluten on a daily basis, I strongly believe it leads to a variety of health problems. So go gluten-free, or at least do it 80% of the time.
To find out if you’re sensitive to gluten, talk to your primary care provider about allergy and sensitivity testing and even checking for Celiacs disease. Celiacs is a condition where gluten actually causes an immune response damaging the small intestine – more inflammation! Remember, everything in moderation. When in doubt of what to eat, go for organic and make your plate a colorful one with protein, fats AND carbs too. And if you find yourself dismissing the gluten-free idea as absurd, maybe it’s simply because you’re addicted to gluten!