What’s this gluten-free fuss all about? By ethicalDeal guest blogger Brittany Eidsness, RHN
It’s in the news, in health magazines, and even your skeptical Aunt Harriet is giving it a try. No, it’s not 1998 and I’m not talking about Tae Bo (although few could argue Billy Blanks wasn’t one hunk of a health nut).
I’m talking gluten-free.
Yes, with a new gluten-free bakery popping up on every corner you may be asking yourself whether you’re a glutton for still eating gluten. But before you burn your bread and join the movement, let’s examine this in a little more detail.
To help you navigate the gluten-free madness here are four pressing questions about the phenomenon.
1. What is gluten anyway?
Gluten is the name that represents the group of proteins that are found in certain grains.
2. What grains contain gluten?
Gluten-containing grains include: wheat, rye barley, triticale, kamut and spelt.
Note: there are many sneaky sources of gluten to watch out for as well, including beer, soy sauce, and salad dressings, to name a few.
3. Why might gluten be bad for you?
According to the authors of Dangerous Grains, James Braly and Ron Hoggan, two groups of people are specifically at risk with gluten-containing grains in their diet: celiac and non-celiac, but gluten-sensitive folk.
Here’s the catch: they also suspect many people are unaware of their sensitivity. Gluten is a stubborn bunch of proteins that are difficult to break down, whether you’re a celiac or not. Braly and Hoggan suggest that somewhere between 15 and 42 percent of the general population are experiencing leaky gut syndrome as a result of these undigested proteins. Leaky gut is suspected to be associated with a multitude of undesirable symptoms including gastrointestinal upset, skin rashes, food intolerance and many more.
Celiac disease can be life threatening if undiagnosed, or it can simply present itself in non-specific and even non-abdominal symptoms. If you think you might be gluten-sensitive, you may want to consider an elimination diet. Removing gluten from the diet is the only “cure” for celiac disease, and the best way to test for sensitivity.
4. Even if you aren’t allergic or sensitive to gluten, is it better to eat gluten-free grains?
The jury is still out on the benefits of gluten-free (and grain-free) diets for the general population, though there does appear to be an inordinate amount of anecdotal accounts of health improvements from those who forego grains (and this jives with my personal experience and those of my clients). But without quality scientific studies to back up this assertion, we cannot say for sure what variable is responsible. For example, are people that go gluten free also consuming less sugar?
What we can say is that a gluten free diet may be beneficial for you, but you must self experiment to determine if that’s true. We can also say that simply passing on the gluten does not make it automatically healthy. A rice-based chocolate chip cookie is not much healthier than one made with wheat flour. Gluten-free pasta is still pasta. Gluten-free pizza is still pizza. You get the idea.
My recommendation, as always, is that it’s hard to go wrong with a diet made from the perimeter of the grocery store: fresh fruit and vegetables, lean meats, seafood and nuts & seeds. Throw in a little Tae Bo and you’ll be just fine.
About the author:
Brittany Eidsness is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist (RHN), Paleo-diet enthusiast, blogger, speaker, advisor and all-around complete food nerd. Check her out at www.wildlives.ca, www.facebook.com/wildlives and @wild_lives.
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