Gluten. It is a hot button topic in the health, wellness and food world. I bet you know at least one person in your life who is now “gluten-free”…I know a few…and they suuuure do love to talk about it! I mean, Domino’s Pizza, D o m i n o ‘ s….now serves gluten free pizza. And you can basically get gluten-free anything at almost every supermarket.
It has become such a thing the past couple of years that it is now sort of like the new fad diet- the new trend that people are falling in line with- but do we all know what the benefit of a gluten-free diet is and if it will change anything for us at all? Do we need to go gluten-free? Or is this a weird fad with no real longevity?
Well lets start with the most basic question: What Is Gluten?
Do you know what it is? What exact foods it is found in? I would suspect MOST people aren’t too sure….they just know it is supposed to be “bad”. If you haven’t already seen this AMAZINGLY hilarious Jimmy Kimmel video asking pedestrians what gluten is, watch it now! You will thank me later.
Ok back on topic now…Gluten is a protein naturally found in wheat, rye and barely- it gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and keep its shape. To get all science-y on you: it is a protein made of a combination of gliadin and glutenin, which are joined with starch in various grains and grain products. Items that gluten is commonly found in are:
- Bakes goods
- Some salad dressings, sauces and soups (often as a thickening agent)
- Wheat-sourced vodka and other liquor (yea, I know..its even in your cocktail!
Wheat products are everywhere- they are a huge part of peoples diet across the world. But some people have intolerances and sensitivities to gluten, the most major intolerance is experienced by those with Celiac Disease.
What is Celiac Disease? It is an autoimmune digestive ailment, and those who suffer from it must avoid foods containing gluten—if they don’t, their immune systems respond to the gluten protein by damaging the small intestine. The damage caused by gluten in these cases can cause a destroyed intestinal lining; this causes nutrients to not be absorbed into the blood stream, which in turn results in severe malnourishment. Other symptoms of Celiac Disease are extreme digestive discomfort, indigestion, cramping and VERY frequent bathroom trips. Sounds like the worst thing ever if you ask me! Celiac Disease is serious- more serious that the common “I ate too much pasta and now my stomach hurts” thing- it can have devastating long term affects if not taken care of.
Over 2 million people in the United States are affected by Celiac disease (about 1 in every 133 people) so it is common but not SO common where three of your friends will have it, know what I mean?
Other people suffer from gluten intolerance and sensitivities which are different from Celiac in that these are not immune diseases. The symptoms of gluten intolerance and sensitivity appear after eating wheat or any foods containing gluten and result in an upset stomach, cramping and (again) frequent bathroom trips. Basically gluten makes you feel like literal shit, and super bloated if you have an intolerance.
A gluten sensitivity, which isn’t very severe, and more of just a general discomfort, is most common in the US-affecting approx 18 million people. Now thats a lot of people.
Still, gluten sensitivities and intolerances DON’T affect everyone right? Well some people beg to differ- some think that cutting out gluten can change the way your body feels and functions…that it will generally make you feel better every day if you say bye-bye to the wheat protein.
Gluten Free As a Way to Loose Weight?
Like I said above, some people believe that cutting out gluten can benefit anyone- which is basically why this whole gluten-free craze started I think. The “diet” has caught on with non-sufferers who think cutting out gluten will help them eat better or lose weight. Which isn’t wrong…but is it completely right?
First of all- a food billed as “gluten-free” isn’t always healthier. Gluten-free products can be high in calories, fat, and carbs, and in some cases, people who go gluten-free actually gain weight instead of losing it. But those people are probably doing it wrong! If you go gluten-free, that doesn’t give you free reign to eat your weight in snack treats and breads touting a sans gluten label.
I would think that if you “go gluten-free” the right way, you’ll be mostly crunching on the antioxidant & vitamin rich veggies and fresh fruits, instead of reaching for a gluten packed, processed baked whatever. You’ll fill up on healthy proteins, salads, quinoa and veggies instead of a bread-dense sandwich or fattening pasta dishes.
So what’s the real deal? Can it help all of us, sensitivity or not?
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I am going to go gluten-free for the next month (or more depending on what happens!) and find out for myself if its just a bunch of hype….or the real deal.
For me- I really want to see how my body feels off of gluten. I do have a sensitive stomach, so I am curious to see if cutting out gluten does anything to change that….
I don’t eat that much gluten anyway, but I do love it. I have bran cereal most mornings, or as an afternoon snack, and I certainly love a piece of toast with brunch! I also have a love affair with pretzels -salty, crunchy snacks and I are just meant to be- so I will have to sadly eliminate those little loves. I don’t like beer, thank god wine is already gluten free! Ha!
Some of the recipes I make use flour, so I will have to use oat flour instead, or just omit the flour…but other than those things, I think it will be pretty easy. I will read labels and make sure I am doing it right.
I will be your guinea pig. I will do weekly check-ins to let you know how it is all going- what I feel like, how my stomach feels, what I am eating in place of the gluten etc…I want to get to the bottom of this and make an educated decision on the topic via my own experiences.
WISH ME LUCK! I may need it