Gluten-Free Diet – A “Fad” Diet Worth Considering
The gluten-free diet has attracted a lot of media attention in recent years. Many claim it as the answer to many problems that include weight gain, digestive issues, and weakness, with more than a few athletes and movie stars endorsing its various benefits. Is this a fad, or a prescription for the multitudes?
Many criticize the trend as a fad that is attracting too many people who are randomly seeking a solution to their diet or health woes.
Out of personal and professional experience, the gluten-free diet is the one diet actually worth considering. My recommendation for people with chronic health concerns is to start with a test for gluten intolerance. While gluten is not a problem for the majority of the populace, according to Dr. David Perlmutter, up to 40% of [the population] are experiencing health concerns from it.
The research on gluten-related disorders is exploding with proof that gluten can trigger an inflammatory response anywhere in the body, and can cause or worsen many autoimmune diseases and health problems.
What is Gluten?
Gluten is the generic name for certain types of proteins contained in wheat, barley, and rye. They are also found in oats because of cross-contamination through harvesting or processing.
When someone cannot tolerate gluten, it creates an immune reaction that causes damage to the small intestine. An inflammatory response can also follow that travels beyond the gut. Even small amounts of gluten in foods can damage the small intestine and trigger many sorts of health problems. This can happen even if you don’t appear to have symptoms.
The term ‘Gluten-related disorder’ is a new term used to describe all conditions related to gluten allergy or intolerance. Subsets of this include celiac disease (CD) and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), which are genetic predispositions affecting people of all ages and ethnicities.
People with CD have flattened villi in their small intestines after repeated exposure to gluten, whereas people with NCGS do not have this autoimmune response. People with both types of conditions require a gluten-free diet, and can experience almost all of the same symptoms throughout the body.
Where is Gluten?
We generally consume more gluten than we realize since much of it is hidden and unnoticeable. Consider this:
Food manufacturers add gluten to wheat flours to give it more binding power. This is why our bread and bagels are so chewy and tasty.
Gluten is a common additive in many packaged, bottled and canned foods. It enhances the texture by binding, thickening or coating the food.
Today’s bioengineers cultivate grains with high amounts of gluten in order to improve the end product. It is estimated that wheat today contains almost 90% more gluten than it did 100 years ago!
Wheat, barley, and rye derivatives exist in foods where you might not expect to find them: soy sauce, salad dressings, processed meat, soups, candy, alcohol and flavored coffee, to name a few of the many thousands of such products.
All of the recipes in My Cookbook are gluten-free or can be converted accordingly. If you are not gluten intolerant, you are fortunate indeed. However, it is still unhealthy to eat a lot of the same foods every day because this creates an imbalance in your diet. We need variety to obtain all of the nutrients that nature has to offer, and that are available for humans to consume and enjoy, in adequate amounts. You can learn more about this in my Health Coaching program.
Do You Have a Gluten-Related Disorder?
It is estimated that there are nearly 200 problems that someone who cannot tolerate gluten may experience (see the list below). A person with a gluten-related disorder may have none, one, or several of these conditions.
This type of disorder is difficult to diagnose without testing because you may not be aware that you have symptoms, or that they are related to any one condition. It’s also complicated because these problems can have other causes unrelated to gluten, they may be worsened by gluten, or they may be caused by gluten.
A partial list of problems or conditions caused or worsened by gluten:
Irritable bowel syndrome
Steatorrhea (fatty floating stools)
Alopecia areata (hair loss)
Dark circles under eyes
Difficulty losing or gaining weight
Failure to thrive
Muscle aches/joint pains
Raynaud’s disease (cold hands/feet)