- What is gluten?
- What is celiac disease? Why are people allergic or sensitive to gluten?
- Can wheat and gluten cause health problems to those who don’t have celiac disease?
- What are simple ways that you can limit (or eliminate) your wheat and gluten consumption?
What is Gluten and Gluten Intolerance?Perhaps the biggest misunderstanding of the gluten discussion is what gluten actually is. Gluten is not wheat. It’s a protein found in wheat, malt, barley, and rye. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder where eating gluten causes the body’s own immune defenses to attack the hair-like, nutrient-absorbing structures in the small intestine. Over time, this destroys the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. There is no cure. People with celiac disease simply must eliminate all gluten from their diet. Eventually, the body can repair and rebuild the damage caused by the disease. There is a blood test for celiac disease, but the most accurate way to diagnose it is with a biopsy of the small intestine. I know that sounds unpleasant, but it’s actually a reasonably quick and easy procedure…and you’ll be asleep for it, waking up usually without even discomfort afterwards. And that leads to the second biggest understanding of the gluten discussion: People without celiac disease presume that consuming gluten doesn’t affect their health. If humans have been eating wheat for thousands of years, why is its gluten content harmful all of a sudden? First, the American diet contains far more wheat than it did 100 years ago. And second, the wheat we’ve been eating since the 1970s is much different than the wheat our ancestors farmed and harvested (more on this later).
What Wheat and Gluten are Doing to Your BodyResearch shows that wheat and other gluten-containing foods cause deadly inflammation, which I believe is at the root of nearly all illnesses. In your brain alone, chronic inflammation can lead to ADHD, schizophrenia, mood swings, migraines, mental malfunctions, and movement problems. About one percent of Americans, or three million people, suffer from gluten intolerance. But experts estimate that as many as 20 million Americans who do not have celiac disease are sensitive to gluten. It’s very possible that you could be one of those 20 million that needlessly suffer from the above-mentioned side effects and illnesses and have no clue as to the cause. Another problem is that signs of gluten intolerance and sensitivity are shared by other conditions, so it’s not always easy for you to connect the dots. For example, symptoms include:
- Brain fog
- Skin rashes
The Silent Killer in Our WheatBut let’s assume you are 100% positive that you don’t have gluten intolerance or sensitivity. You can eat as much wheat as you want, right? Wrong! The vast majority of wheat harvested in the world (especially in the United States) is contaminated with glyphosate. If the word “glyphosate” doesn’t ring a bell, it’s known as the active ingredient in Roundup, the widely used herbicide that is sprayed on nearly every commercial crop that grows out of the ground – especially the fields of wheat, corn, and soy that span for acres in our nation’s farmlands. Glyphosate first entered our food chain in the 1970s and has become so widely used that food manufactures developed genetically modified organisms (GMOs) so that crops can continue to grow despite being doused with a battery of chemicals. I’m convinced these chemicals – especially glyphosate – are slowly and steadily ravaging our bodies. And that’s on top of the damage that gluten can be doing, too. Here’s a partial list of the health effects linked to glyphosate:
- Hormone imbalances due to disruption of the endocrine system
- Breakdown in intestinal wall junctions, leading to leaky gut
- Vitamin and mineral depletion
- Reduced detoxification abilities in the liver
- Difficulty maintaining properly balanced intestinal bacteria
Simple Tips to Create a Wheat and Gluten-Free DietGoing wheat and gluten free isn’t as easy as just buying foods labeled “gluten free.” In fact, a lot of foods with a gluten free label are highly processed and filled with sugars and other additives to make them taste “normal.” For example, gluten-free brownies, cookies, breads, etc. are not healthier than their gluten-filled counterparts. In fact, they tend to be less healthy. If you’re going to remove gluten from the diet, simply avoid the foods that contain gluten. Trust me, you aren’t doing your body any favors by eating brownies, whether they have gluten or not. Here’s a quick list of popular foods that contain gluten: breads, cereals, pasta, pizza, and beer. Gluten is also lurking in a variety of seemingly innocent food products such as soy sauce, frozen vegetables in sauces, creamy soups and gravies, vitamin and mineral supplements, toothpaste, and many “natural flavorings.” Always read the ingredients list and look to see if a product contains wheat, flour, modified food starch, malt, malt extract, barley, or rye (to name a few). Going wheat and gluten free seems like a tall task. But the truth is that there are plenty of other grains in your local grocery store. What’s not available near you is widely available online. Let’s debunk yet another misunderstanding: Giving up wheat means you need to avoid all carbohydrates. Again, wrong. I recommend getting one-third of your calories from complex carbs, including gluten-free, organic grains such as:
- Rice, both regular and wild
- Montina flour for baking (Montina is a rice grass favored by native Americans)
- Oats (as long as they are not contaminated with gluten during processing; look for “gluten-free” on the label)