Going gluten-free has become very popular over the last few years. We can find gluten-free products almost everywhere now, and even some restaurants offer gluten-free options. This way of eating is not only for people who have a gluten or wheat sensitivity, or celiac disease, but also for anyone who wants be healthier. More than 21 million Americans now have some problems related to gluten, and possibly millions more because most of them are not even diagnosed.
Gluten is the name of the protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. This is what gives elasticity to bread, pasta, and baked goods. Gluten is found in beer and some types of alcohol, and can also be found in different products such as vegan meat substitute, soy sauce, soups, and even in some medication and supplements. It’s not everyone that seems to be intolerant to gluten, but most people feel better after removing it from their diet.
It’s important to realize that the wheat we have today is completely different than the wheat our ancestors had many years ago. Modern wheat has more gluten in it, is highly processed, and most of the wheat cultivated in the United States has been genetically modified by hybridization (crossing different strains). Wheat is also very addictive, and this is due to a protein found in wheat calledgliadin, which is converted to exorphins in the body, making you feel good after eating it and making you want to eat more.
Today, with our poor diet, lifestyle and environmental factors, as well as the overuse of antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs, our gastrointestinal tract gets damaged and gluten can cross the intestinal barrier more easily, getting into the body and attacking our cells. Our immune system deals with it by creating inflammation in the body to get rid of it. This process can lead to many different health issues such as gastrointestinal problems, skin conditions, mood disorders, joint pain and swelling, weight gain, diabetes, heart diseases, and behavioral problems–including ADHD and autism.
Most of our immune system is located in our gut so taking care of it is essential to remain healthy. They both work together to defend the body against bacteria, toxins, and diseases. The gastrointestinal tract is also related to our brain, which affects our mind, mood, and behavior. Having a healthy diet, with the help of supplements if needed–such as probiotics and enzymes–as well as having a healthy lifestyle, is very important. The health of our gut has a direct impact on our entire body.
I believe that the best thing to do is to return to an unprocessed diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, a lot of greens, raw nuts and seeds, healthy oils, and sustainable, organic quality meat and products for those who aren’t vegetarian. I believe that pseudo-grains such as quinoa, amaranth, and buckwheat can also be eaten, as they aren’t grains but seeds. I think it’s also important to know that it doesn’t mean a product is healthy because it’s labeled gluten-free. Most of these products are highly processed and very high in sugars, which is not healthy. I’m convinced that by including more real and whole foods to our diet, and by having a healthy lifestyle, we can restore the health of our gut and achieve optimum health.