What is Gluten?
Gluten -- it seems to be on the lips of everyone these days. How in the world can bread, the staple of our meals, be so bad for us? Well, there are lots of theories, studies, and opinions.
Some think it's the hybridization of the wheat itself. Wheat is not genetically modified (GMO), but has been hybridized to increase the gluten (protein). It's believed, because of this, that the gluten is too much for our digestive tract. However, the bakers love it! Others think it's the recent news that many of the grain farmers actually spray their fields with glyphosate to speed the drying process. Whatever the reason, it seems to be affecting many of us.
So, what is gluten? Gluten is the protein in wheat (all varieties of wheat), rye and barley. It’s what makes our breads light and fluffy. It makes our pizza dough stretchy, which allows the pizza guys to throw it up in the air without it falling apart. Trust me, you don't want to throw a gluten-free pizza crust up in the air! As much as I used to love to bake, it does create some havoc in the baking process when you use gluten-free flour. It's almost like a chemistry experiment!
How does it affect people? Some have a disease called Celiac, which is what my middle son has. It destroys the villi in the small intestinal tract, which stops the absorption of nutrients into the body. Some have an allergy. Some have a gluten sensitivity. Some are only mildly affected, others can't even breathe the air that may be contaminated with gluten flour, or have their food touch a gluten product. It can be found in all kinds of foods (some you wouldn't even think about), and even in medications. Trust me, we learned everything the hard way with my whole family. We even connected it to my daughter's urinary infections. My oldest son went back to eating it on and off again for 10 years, until he ended up almost living in the bathroom before he finally gave it up. At that point, he needed to add some supplements to help his body heal. Some people are fine just eliminating gluten, others need extra help repairing the damage done to their bodies. Your best bet, if you think you are affected, is to read all labels! It can be hidden under all kinds of names.
Is gluten addictive? You bet it is! That's the hard part. That's the reason so many people have such a hard time giving it up. It's very addicting to the brain, because it's a comfort food. I don't know about you, but how many can stop at just one piece of warm crusty bread, one piece of pizza, or one piece of cake -- I could go on and on. I've been there, done that! And, food companies very much know this. That is one of the reasons it is added to so many products, like rice mixes and soups. Why in the world would you put wheat protein in a rice mix, or soup?
To add to the problem, it can be very hard to diagnose, because it affects people in so many ways. It has been connected to at least 300 autoimmune diseases, yet some people have no symptoms at all -- until later in life.
Here are just some of the health issues it has been connected to:
Weight Gain and Weight Loss
Short Stature or Failure to Thrive
ADD / ADHD
Hormone Imbalances such as PMS, PCOS
Mood Issues such as depression, anxiety, mood swings
Neurological conditions such as dizziness, feeling off balance
Digestive issues such as gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea
IBS, Crohn's Disease, and Leaky Gut
Skin conditions like eczema, acne, rashes
Migraine Headaches or Seizures
Dental Enamel Defects
Hopefully, now you can understand why it's such a hot topic, along with why there is now so much information out there about it. If you have health issues, like the above, maybe it's time to look at the possibility of eliminating gluten. Just try to make sure you have a doctor who will listen to you and does understand the whole gluten topic. If nothing else, I always suggest taking gluten out of the diet for 30 days and see how you feel. See if any of your ailments either disappear, or at least somewhat subside. It's one of my specialities, so if you need help, let me know.
The good news is there are lots of options out there now. Trust me, years ago it was not fun! Just be careful of some of the gluten-free options. Most really aren't any healthier, other than being void of gluten. But, they are great to use to break the "addiction." Check out my Gluten-Free Suggestions page where I listed a few of our favorites. This is what we did in our family. Then we started weaning ourselves off of those grains. We are now almost Paleo. We found that there aren't any grains, beside the occasional oatmeal and wild rice, that agree with our bodies. Do we bake for holidays, special occasions and birthdays? You bet we do! We just don't over do it. I do what I preach -- eat good 90% of the time, snitch the other 10% -- or life just isn't fun!
If you would like to learn more, below are some great videos to help you make an educated decision, if you decide to exclude it from your food choices.
Dr. Tom O'Bryan hosted The Gluten Summit in November of 2013. He has been researching gluten sensitivities for over 30 years.
What is Gluten -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3tmWlzgCmEY
How Some Immune Systems React to Gluten -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z937yRGPf5M&spfreload=5
Top 5 Things You Didn't Know About Gluten -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xloudUAXwRE
Stop Eating Gluten with Dr. Tom O'Bryan (part of The Gluten Summit) -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJevPgyk390