What is Gluten-Free
(and is it really better for you)?

Gluten-Free 101

Healing Naturally

Stephanie Kanoeola Megumi Wong

First-things-first, what is gluten?

In its most simplest terms, gluten is a mixture of proteins found in wheat – often highlighted for giving bread its elasticity, structure, strength, and texture. (Think chewy pizza crust or artisan breads with lots of nooks and crannies).

For the visual learners, gluten comes from the endosperm within the seed of the wheat/grass-grain (pictured below).


Gluten Reactions

Despite the many “pros” gluten has for tasty dishes, it can be quite irritable for some folks. Without making this too complicated, I’ll break it down to a few “digestible” buckets.

Bucket A – Gluten is Perfectly Fine
A percentage of people in this world have no known reaction to gluten and can eat it without feeling a thing (i.e. – stomach cramps, diarrhea, joint pain, and much more).

Bucket B – Gluten is Toxic (Celiac Disease)
There’s a growing percentage of people who are clinically diagnosed with Celiac Disease – an autoimmune disorder where tiny, hair-like protrusions (called villi) in the lining of the small intestine are damaged. Not only is this quite painful, but it is also quite toxic, since the villi are responsible for absorbing nutrients from food.

  • Common symptoms: stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, floating or foul smelling stool, depression, fatigue, infertility, weight loss, and much more.
  • Diagnosis: It’s best to head to your physician or naturopathic doctor for a clinical diagnosis.

Bucket C – Gluten is Intolerable (Gluten Intolerance)
Often confused with Celiac disease, people who have a gluten intolerance (or sensitivity) may experience some of the same symptoms as those with Celiac disease, but the biggest difference between the two, is that folks with a gluten intolerance show no signs of damage to the lining of the small intestine.

  • Common symptoms: fatigue, acid reflux, joint pain, stomach pain, bloating, diarrhea, abnormal mensis, depression, weight loss/gain, and much more.
  • Diagnosis: It’s best to head to your physician or naturopathic doctor for a clinical diagnosis.

Bucket D – Gluten just doesn’t feel so hot
For those that don’t have Celiac disease or a diagnosed gluten intolerance, you just may not feel so hot when you eat gluten-filled foods. As more and more people are opening up to new ways of eating (vs. following the USDA food pyramid, diet books, and good ol’ tradition), folks are seeing a change in their physical appearance AND their energy levels. Gluten, considered to be one of the top 7 food allergies, plays a considerable roll in how one feels.

  • Common symptoms: fatigue, low-energy, bloating, constipation, and so much more.
  • Diagnosis: Eliminate gluten from your diet for a 4-week period. Add it back into your diet and see you how feel.


Is a Gluten-Free diet better for me?

Now that you are armed with a little bit of knowledge around what gluten is and the buckets of reactions one could have, you can see that there’s no ONE answer to “is gluten-free better for you.”

It ultimately depends on the bio-make-up of the individual and how one reacts to the ingredient. One of the best things you can do for yourself, is to stay informed about what you are eating, read food labels, ask questions, and most importantly try new foods.

You can easily experiment with how gluten works in your body by temporarily removing it and adding it back into your diet (like Bucket D above). Give it a try. You might learn something about yourself.

 


Read more

Top 5 Gluten-Free Pantry Staples
Gluten’s Secret Hiding Places
Chunky Monkey Banana Bread (Simple Gluten-Free Baking)
Banana Bread Fudge (Low-Carb, Paleo-friendly and Gluten-Free)

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Thanks for reading! My name is Stephanie Wong and I am a certified holistic health & nutrition coach, home-grown natural food cook, lover of all things ginger, and a strong believer that strength is beauty. [read more...]

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