ABOUT GLUTEN | Conscious Cooking

Going gluten-free has become very popular during the last few years. We can find gluten-free products almost everywhere now, and even some restaurants offer gluten-free options. There are more than 21 million Americans that have some problems related to gluten and possibly millions more because most of them are not 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 like vegan meat substitute, soy sauce, soups and even in some medication and supplements. Not everyone seems to be intolerant to gluten, but many people feel better after removing and reducing gluten from their diet.

The wheat that exists 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, which involves crossing different strains. Wheat is also very addictive, which is due to a protein found in wheat called gliadin, which converts to exorphins in the body, making you feel good after eating it and 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 like gastrointestinal problems, skin conditions, mood disorders, joint pain and swelling, weight gain, diabetes, heart diseases and behavioral problems, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and autism.

Most of our immune system is in our gut, so taking care of it is essential to remain healthy. The gut and immune system 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.

It’s very common now for people to be intolerant to gluten and/or wheat. A food intolerance is not as severe as a food allergy but should still be taken seriously since it may bring a lot of discomfort. If you suspect a gluten intolerance, try removing it from your diet for a few weeks and see if you notice a difference. Pseudo-grains like quinoa, amaranth, millet and buckwheat can be eaten as well as corn and rice. Remember, however, that grains and flours are not needed in the diet to achieve optimum health.

Additionally, it’s important to know that it doesn’t mean a product is labeled as gluten-free that it’s healthier or even healthy. They can be a better option for those who have an intolerance or allergy to gluten. However, many of those products are processed heavily and contain many starches. If you are going to eat grains and flours and have no intolerance to gluten, I believe it’s best to stick to whole grains and flours and consume them in moderation or occasionally.