Going gluten-free is often dismissed by many as just another fad, because it has become such a large diet trend. However, the science behind it cannot be ignored. For a lot of people it started off as a trend because countless celebrities were advocating it. The one thing the majority of diets have in common is cutting out/down refined carbs.
Bread is one of the biggest culprits and being a convenient food, many find it difficult to give up, replacing wheat bread with gluten-free bread options. Yet many of these options are actually just as refined and will have a direct impact on your pancreas and insulin. This means you are not going to lose weight. Not all gluten-free products are created equal, and, in addition, many do not disclose their full ingredients. All sorts of fillers and binders are used to make sure the bread doesn’t crumble in the absence of the glue in gluten. These certainly will have a negative impact on your health.
Gluten-free does not necessarily mean guilt-free
This is important to understand, because most gluten-free products in supermarkets are placed in the health section, leading many consumers to believe that the box of gluten-free cookies they just bought is a healthy snack. Most gluten-free products have very high-refined starchy ingredients, such as tapioca and potato starch. If you do decide to go for this way of eating, make sure to look for alternatives that have a good protein content, in combination with a small amount of a high quality carb. This will not only make the bread more nutritious but will have a lower Glycaemic load, which will slow the blood sugar release.
What Exactly is Gluten?
Gluten is made up of a mixture of proteins classified as prolamines and glutelins, which are found in grains like wheat, barley, rye, spelt and oats. It has the ability to stretch, which allows bread or pastries to rise, resulting in a light, airy texture. The lower the gluten content, the more dense and heavy the bread will be. Until recently, gluten was considered only a problem for those with coeliac disease, an autoimmune disease in which gluten is the trigger. However, new research on gluten digestion is linked to other autoimmune illnesses, which are on the rapid rise at the moment.
Dr. Alessio Fasano, Chief of the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Massachusetts General Hospital for Children, is a pioneer in the field of gluten, publishing ground-breaking research on the effects of gluten in the body, which create gaps between the cells of the gut and cause the intestine to become permeable. The cells in our gut lining prevent unwanted particles from entering the bloodstream. Every time you eat gluten, the cells of your gut lining become more permeable and allow particles to sneak directly into your bloodstream. For many people, this isn’t a problem, as their bodies easily clear the protein away and repair the gut lining.
However, the problem arises when we constantly eat gluten throughout the day:
1. Breakfast – toast or cereals
2. Lunch – sandwich of sorts
3. Snack – crackers
4. Dinner – pasta, pie, crumbed chicken etc
Nobody can efficiently digest gluten. Because of the composition of the protein, it is impossible for the enzymes in our guts to break down the protein into small enough parts to absorb. These can be recognized as foreigners and provoke an immune reaction. With coeliacs, antibodies are produced to attack the gluten protein, but these antibodies also fight the cells of the gut lining, which is where the symptoms of diarrhea and weight-loss come from.
If you are intolerant to gluten, you may not form antibodies, but you will still have some form of immune reaction with many other symptoms. At the least there will be inflammation, which adds fuel to fire in many conditions. This doesn’t mean that gluten causes these diseases, but that gut permeability is a precursor to the development of some autoimmune diseases.
Again, like most things in life – practice moderation!
If you have a healthy immune system, you can continue to eat gluten in moderation and always focus on eating real foods. Limiting highly processed white flour, sugary baked goods, and snack-foods is good for everyone. Perhaps for many that feel better when they cut out gluten, the effect can be the result of cutting out refined starches. Click here to find out more about this topic.
Who is the writer?
Desi Horsman is a leading authority on all things food. She is a qualified clinical nutritionist, wellness coach and professional speaker. She is passionate about her discipline and sharing her incredible knowledge about the human body and the connection between mind and body wellness.
She firmly believes that everything we do in life is a reflection of our deepest, core beliefs. This is particularly true when it comes to our relationship with food, as well as the shape and size of our bodies.
Want to test gluten-free out? Click on the link for this recipe for chocolate cake, which is – you guess it – gluten-free, whilst boasting the added benefits of being dairy- and refined sugar free. If you do decide to go gluten-free for your health, make sure you add refined sugar to the list of ingredients to avoid!