Gluten-free is popping up everywhere these days. From bakeries to items that line the shelves in your food store. It even seems to be the new diet for weight-loss. With all the hype, you have to wonder, does gluten affect me?
What is it?Gluten is a protien found in whole wheat, rye, and barley products. In today’s world many of us indulge in something Specifically, gluten is found in all forms of wheat, including spelt, farina, semolina, triticale and kamut, as well as barley, rye and possibly oats. Gluten also is used as a thickener in a host of food products and some medications. It is even used in the glue on the back of stamps, in some toothpastes and as a powdery coating on some chewing gum. Therefore, it’s in our cereal, pastries, bagels, bread, crackers, pasta, and the list goes on. Back in the day, we used to eat different types of grains daily, not just whole wheat products, so most of us unknowingly have developed low levels of gluten intolerance.
So how does gluten affects your body? In your body there are microscopic finger-like projections that line the inner wall of the small intestine. After food passes from the stomach into the small intestine, nutrients in the food are absorbed into the body through the villi and injected into your blood stream. Without healthy villi, a person becomes malnourished, no matter how much food one eats.
With continued ingestion of gluten over time, the villi of your stomach become more flat, rounded, no longer finger-like and therefore minimizing of nutrients. The impacts of this aren’t as quick as those with a food allergy, but if you have a an intolerance the malabsorption affects can take time to notice, reactions could be put to other tributary factors therefore disguising the true food intolerance and condition.
The good news is that the damage to the villi is not permanent and improvement in health usually begins immediately after adopting a gluten-free diet. No medication is required, but the diet does require a serious lifelong commitment.
Individuals with gluten and allergy intolerance will have symptoms that include indigestion, gas, diarrhea and constipation. In these people, the gluten causes damage to the lining of the intestine. An allergy to gluten typically involves an immune response, and can be determined with a blood test. An intolerance to gluten can be just as unpleasant symptomatically but is more difficult to pinpoint. People with gluten allergies and intolerance can eliminate gluten from their diets and reduce their symptoms while improving digestion. It is also important to note that gluten allergies and intolerance are often linked to intolerance and allergies of the protein casein, which is found in milk and dairy products. If eliminating gluten only does not resolve digestive issues, eliminating casein too may be necessary.
So what should you do? Pay attention to your body. Keep a food journal for a week. Take note of what you consume and when, note how your body is feeling, and If avoiding gluten makes you feel more energetic, relieves ongoing bloating, gassiness or cramps, and clears up your skin or mood, continuing to cut out wheat, barley and rye won’t hurt you if you’re smart about it. Just be sure to:
– Get your fiber elsewhere.Up your daily quotient of beans, fruits and vegetables — a good idea anyway. Switch to gluten-free grains like cornmeal, brown rice, chia, buckwheat, flax, kasha, millet and quinoa.
– Beef up your Bs. The B vitamins that are abundant in wheat will be missed, and not all gluten-free foods are fortified. So take a multivitamin.
– See your doctor. If you feel dramatically better after cutting out gluten, if celiac disease runs in your family or if you have risk factors for it (like thyroid disease or type 1 diabetes), get a checkup. You want an accurate diagnosis. You also want to be sure you don’t have another problem (like inflammatory bowel disease) with similar symptoms.