With gluten free products springing up everywhere, many are left wondering what all of the fuss is about. They are asking; what is gluten and why is it so bad? Gluten is a name given to a group of proteins found mostly in wheat, rye and barley. Because these grains are used to make breads, pastas, flours, and to thicken most sauces/soups, they’re encountered in almost everything the typical American eats.
The reason that grains have been demonized lately is due to the popularity of diets such as the paleo and ketogenic diets. There’s also the anti-inflammatory diet which uses the motto that ‘grains inflame’. Additionally, there has been a recent surge in people being diagnosed with gluten sensitivities (causes low grade digestive issues and inflammation). I’m not referring to Celiac disease which is a major health issue. The gluten sensitivity that is gaining attention causes people to suffer from digestive issues, feelings of being tired/fatigued, headaches and more.
So you may be wondering; if I don’t have this gluten sensitivity thing, are there any reasons to avoid it? Well, there are a lot of health experts who are saying yes. Gluten is usually consumed in large quantities which might be responsible for systemic inflammation. Stories abound of miraculous life transformations after eliminating gluten. Diets that completely eliminate grains, sugar and dairy are becoming popular for the treatment of autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders (watch, minding your mitochondria). This approach is also very successful for weight loss and managing diabetes.
Finally, because grains can cause systemic inflammation if consumed in high amounts, reducing grain/gluten consumption can be an effective pain management strategy. Consider all of the muscular skeletal conditions that cause pain: Arthritis, tendinitis, bursitis etc. The -itis is inflammation and inflammation is painful. Minimizing or even eliminating foods that cause inflammation can in some cases greatly reduce chronic pain.
It should now be noted that we are all different. How each of us react to and process foods will be determined by our genetics, metabolism, activity levels, stress levels etc. We all have different metabolic and hormone responses to different foods (read my post; What the hell can I eat?) There are some people who will have major life transformations by eliminating gluten and others who will not. For a lot of people, gluten in the form of whole grains is extremely healthy.
If you think you might have a food sensitivity there are some allergy tests, blood tests and even stool samples. A popular do it yourself method is trying to avoid certain foods for a period of time and then slowly reintroduce them and see what happens. Try one of these, Whole 30 or 28 day reset. Also, I encourage you to read my post Refined foods and the overfed state to learn about what the real health concerns regarding food are.