If you haven’t heard that gluten is the devil by now, you’re living under a rock. No, but seriously, it seems like everywhere I go, more and more people, food, and products are preaching “GLUTEN FREE!”
If you’ve just been nodding your head this whole time saying, “Oh, yeah, I’m totes gluten free,” even though you’re not really clear on what that means, this blog post is for you!
What is Gluten?
In its most basic form, gluten is a major protein that is found in lots of grains. It is present in ALL forms of WHEAT. By wheat, I mean bread, pasta, & other deliciousness that is made from durum, bulgar, semolina, farro, etc.
Can Gluten Be in Foods Other Than Wheat?
YES. It can be found in lots of unexpected things. Soy sauce contains MSG (mono sodium glutamate), so it contains gluten. MSG is also really bad but I feel pretty much hopeless on that one since it’s in everything and is listed under several different names. There’s not much you can do to avoid the MSG monster but let’s not get too off topic here. They use gluten as a filler in lots of things because it’s such a fabulous, cheap thickening agent. Gluten can be found in some deli meats, hot dogs, candies, salad dressings, lots of asian foods, & even some non food items like toothpastes, cosmetics, & deodorants. Beware of “modified food starch” as an ingredient, as most of those starches contain gluten.
Why is Gluten Different Than Other Proteins?
Gluten is different than an animal protein, a protein in rice (a grain that doesn’t have gluten), or even a dairy protein because it is REALLY hard for the human stomach to completely digest. It can make some people REALLY sick. These people have what is called “Celiac Disease”. About 1% of people have this. If you think you have celiac disease, you can easily get a specific blood test that will confirm that for you at the doctor’s office. Most of us don’t have it, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to eat all the time.
If I Don’t Have Celiac’s Disease, Can Gluten Still Kinda Hurt Me?
Yes. Lots of people have stomach issues for years & are extremely sensitive to gluten, yet they don’t have celiac’s disease. Celiac is gluten intolerance in its strongest form. Even if you don’t have the disease, you can be intolerant of gluten just a little or a lot. It varies from person to person. Gluten can affect your stomach, mood, joints, skin, etc. It gives some people gas, diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, mood swings, etc.
Why Is Gluten Just Now Becoming A Big Deal?
Because Americans eat too much processed food. Everything is processed and uses wheat fillers, so basically, our stomachs are facing a very unnatural gluten over load. Gluten is especially bad for infants and children because it has been linked to behavioral disorders & concentration issues as well as a slew of stomach problems.
Do I Have To Stop Eating Gluten Completely?
No. You should discover your own level of gluten intolerance. If you find that when you’re ingesting gluten frequently, your skin is worse & you feel farty, bloated, or just plain bad, you probably should cut back. I personally am about 80% gluten free. You can do this by making small changes like gluten free bread (made from rice, usually), ordering a gluten free pizza or pasta instead of the regular stuff, & reading labels. Also, eating fresh whole foods is a way to naturally weed out the bad.
In closing, if you’ve had stomach issues for a long time, and you don’t know what’s causing them, try cutting out gluten completely to see if it helps. Lots of people have been really intolerant their whole lives and have no idea. A good way to moderate your gluten intake & reset your gut is to cut it out cold turkey for a while, then slowly add it back in in moderation.
I highly recommend cutting gluten completely out of an infant or child’s diet because their stomach linings are still so fragile, too much gluten can be really damaging. I highly recommend getting your child tested at a young age for celiac’s disease as well.