I get asked about gluten on a regular basis! “Gluten free” has become the new health fad, and, as with most health fads, it has created a lot of confusion. The truth is that we don’t know a lot about it! We know that it is a protein complex found in wheat, kamut, spelt, barley, rye, corn, rice and farro – although corn and rice contain gluten too, it is a different form. Gluten gives dough its chewy, doughy feel and taste. It is also used as a stabilizing / thickening agent in many processed foods like ketchup, ice cream, pasta, beer, salad dressing and cold cut meats.
We also know that not all flours contain gluten, because not all flours are made with wheat. Gluten free flour can be made from potatoes, tapioca, amaranth, arrowroot, millet, montina, lupin, quinoa, sorghum, taro, teff, chia seed, yam, soybean, nut flours, buckwheat, gram flour and chick pea flour. Nut, seed, bean and vegetable flours are gluten free. In short: nut, seed, bean and vegetable flours are gluten free.
Who needs to avoid gluten? Anyone who has been diagnosed with celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that keeps a person’s body from tolerating gluten. When a person with celiac disease eats gluten, his or her small intestine becomes inflamed and damaged, resulting in malnutrition and unhealthy weight loss because necessary nutrients cannot be absorbed properly. Symptoms may include a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms, fatigue and headaches. Celiac is diagnosed through a blood test and a small bowel biopsy.
Some people simply have a sensitivity to gluten. Their symptoms are similar to those with celiac. For some, irritation is reduced when they eat less food that contains gluten; others must stop eating food with gluten all together.
However – for those who are not celiac and do not have a sensitivity, there is not a health benefit to discontinuing the use of foods that contain gluten, other than avoiding those which are not whole clean foods and are processed and refined!
There are many nutrient dense healthy foods that are high in gluten. In fact, if you eliminate all foods that contain gluten, and especially healthy one’s like whole wheat, kamut, spelt, rye and farro, there is a possibility that you might develop nutritional deficiencies.
As always, the key to nutrition lies in eating the following foods, in the following order:
- Green Veggies / Cruciferous Veggies
- Fruits and other vegetables
- Beans, Nuts, Seeds Potatoes / Corn / Whole Grains (except for those who are celiac or gluten sensitive)
- Organic Dairy Products from Grass Fed Sources (mainly plain yogurt)
- Beef, Poultry, Pork from free range / grass fed sources & Wild caught fish/seafood
Avoid refined processed foods. They are not foods at all. Eat a diet rich in a variety of clean whole foods, based in plant products. If you have any questions contact your physician, but remember that true medicine is regular exercise and clean whole foods.