What’s The Deal With Gluten Anyway?
Does anyone else feel like gluten has become the food villain of the decade? So the question is…is it just a trendy fad or is it something we should actually be concerned about? Are there gluten free diet benefits? Like most food trends, navigating what your friends are doing, what’s trending online and what’s actually going to make a positive difference for your health can be tricky (read: impossible). Think you’re off the hook because that muffin you ordered was gluten free? Think again!
What is gluten?
Gluten is a general term for the “sticky” protein molecules found in some grains: gliadin and glutenin. It has a glue-like consistency that gives bread it’s elasticity when baked and it’s also often used as a binder or filler in processed foods. Why is gluten problematic? Gluten has been shown to spike levels of the protein zonulin in the gut, leading to leaky gut syndrome. This gut permeability allows undigested food proteins and bacterial endotoxins to pass into the blood stream, activating an inflammatory-immune response in your body. Wheat has the highest concentrations of gluten proteins and is the most common in our diet.
In addition there are other gluten-containing grains, such as spelt, kamut, rye, barley and oats. Oats themselves do not contain gluten but are often processed in the same facilities as gluten products (unless specifically saying “gluten free oats” on the label). As such, a gluten contamination of oats can be enough to trigger a reaction in the body. Many common foods that contain gluten include bread, crackers, cereals, sauces, pastas, doughs, wraps, buns, dressings and pastries.
Why does it seem that gluten-related health issues are suddenly popping up everywhere? Are there gluten free diet benefits?
Reactions to gluten run on a spectrum. On one end there’s celiac disease, and then there’s gluten intolerance and non-celiac gluten sensitivity at the other. Research has shown that the prevalence of all three has been growing. Celiac disease in particular, has rates doubling every fifteen years! But the question stumping a lot of people is, why? Gluten has been around forever! Why all of a sudden are there gluten free diet benefits?
For starters, the gluten that our grandparents ate years ago is very different than what’s available to us today. It’s estimated than 5% of the proteins found in wheat are “new proteins” that aren’t found in the original wheat plant due to hybridization and other modern production practices. These days wheat also contains MORE gluten molecules than they once did. Many gluten-containing foods, like popular commercial bread brands for example, already contains wheat flour (which is gluten containing), but more gluten itself is then added to extend the shelf life and make it more appealing to the consumer (softer, more pliable etc.). Don’t believe us? Check the ingredients list!
Another factor that comes into play is modern agricultural practices. Our increased use of pesticides and the introduction of other toxins have not only depleted our soil of nutrients, but have increased the amount of chemicals in our food and environment. Cue leaky gut, intestinal damage and a susceptibility to food sensitivities. Not to mention wheat is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, most commonly being sprayed with glyphosate (also known as the leading ingredient in the pesticide called “round up).
What’s the bottom line? Wheat is not what it once was. In addition, the intersection of many different factors in our food, environment and lifestyles have created the perfect storm for gluten reactions.
Should everyone avoid gluten?
Have you ever heard of a gluten deficiency? No? Well, that’s because it doesn’t exist! Evidence shows that at the end of the day, gluten doesn’t benefit anyone. One particular 2015 study looked at patients with active celiac disease, celiac patients in remission, patients with non celiac gluten sensitivity and patients with no gluten-related complaints. They found that exposure to gluten in all four groups lead to SOME level of intestinal damage. In other words, everyone has some type of reaction to gluten after consumption.
Some people may only experience subtle symptoms because they’re able to repair and recover from the damage more quickly than others. Meanwhile other people’s symptoms are more obvious. Symptoms are also wide-ranging. Mood changes, to skin reactions, migraines, stomach aches, brain fog and joint pain are just a few. From a clinical perspective, if we know gluten is causing damage on even a small scale, it would be recommended to take it out of the equation because over time, small amounts of damage to the intestines can lead to more series issues.
5 tips to adopt a gluten free diet and reap the gluten free diet benefits
Don’t worry however because there’s good news! With gluten being the talk of the town these days, gluten free resources are becoming increasingly abundant in our society. From restaurant menus, to online recipes and cookbooks, there’s no shortage of gluten free alternatives. If you want a gluten free life, here are some tips to make the gluten-free diet benefits more accessible to you. We talk about this all the time!
GLUTEN FREE TIP 1: Find substitutes that you love
There’s no shortage of alternatives out there! Do your research and learn about what’s available. For example, you can use almond flour in your baking instead of refined flour and find healthy, gluten free brands that won’t trigger any symptoms. Need help with this? TMB’s got you covered with our health coaching services.
GLUTEN FREE TIP 2: Check with restaurants in advance
If you’re going out for dinner with your friends and feel weird or intimidated about asking the server about gluten-free options in front of the group, call the restaurant ahead so you know what to order! Most restaurants have plenty of gluten free options on their menu, and they’re happy to accommodate any and all dietary restrictions!
GLUTEN FREE TIP 3: Have resources available in your home
If all you have in your cupboards is gluten-filled foods, then that’s what you’re going to be eating! Add gluten free items to your next grocery list so you can stock your home with healthy alternatives. It might also be worth getting a few gluten-free cookbooks and pick some new favourite recipes!
Just be careful to always check the ingredients list. Aka just because it’s “gluten-free” doesn’t mean it’s healthy!
GLUTEN FREE TIP 4: Plan your meals ahead of time
If you’re in the middle of running errands and have a social gathering to make it to in a rush, you’re more likely to make a pit stop and grab takeout, which might mean processed foods that contain gluten. If you plan out your day and bring a pre-packed meal with you, you’ll be more prepared when hunger strikes! Meal prepping can also help you stick to a gluten free diet instead of reaching for a bagel at work.
Side benefit: Taking out processed foods from our diets (many of which are gluten-containing) and replacing them with nutrient dense foods is another reason you’ll likely feel better after going gluten-free!
GLUTEN FREE TIP 5: Remind yourself how you feel when you eat gluten
Before you dive into that bowl of pasta, remind yourself how you’re going to feel after. Will you be bloated? Would your stomach hurt? Do you get tired and have to go to bed early? Will your skin become inflamed? This can help motivate you to make healthier choices.
Want to take a step in the right direction towards moving, feeling and looking better? Join our FREE 3 Day Clean Gut Detox Program! During the course of the 3 days, you’ll get a small glimpse of what to expect in the full 21-Day program. One of the cornerstones of the 21-Day Clean Gut Detox is education – We don’t just tell you what to do (like avoiding gluten, for example), but we also tell you why you’re doing it and how these recommended changes will support you on your health and wellness journey. The Clean Gut Detox emphasizes the consumption of whole, unprocessed, gut optimizing foods as well as various lifestyle changes & bio-hacks that can help you transform your health and wellness from the inside out.
About The Movement Boutique in Toronto – Pilates, Chiropractic, Functional Medicine
Located on Yonge Street in Toronto, The Movement Boutique serves the areas of Summerhill, Rosedale and Yorkdale with Pilates classes and much more. Our philosophy is centred on a holistic, multimodal approach to health, grounded in the latest therapeutic techniques and clinical research. Our approach: Optimal health cannot be attained through a single therapeutic lens; injuries are often the result of a constellation of lifestyle issues, including dysfunctional movement patterns, trauma, nutritional deficiencies or destructive habits of mind.