Recently Jimi Kimmel sent one of his minions to ask people that where living gluten-free what was gluten. It came as no surprise that most of them had no clue, making for a hilarious critique on fads. While it is true that a lot of people jump on diet fads without proper information, it is also true that gluten can be problematic in our diets.
For those of you that are not familiar with it, gluten is a protein (composed of two proteins) found in wheat, barley, rye and various crossbreds. It is found in the grains endosperm and is responsible for nourishment during the plants germination. Later it is responsible for doughs elasticity (such as in breads and most baked goods).
So, what is the problem with it? For once the way we prepare grains has long a strayed from the way grains were prepared in traditional diets. Grains used to be sprouted,soaked or fermented prior to consumption making them easier to digest. Not only that, our ancestors did not consume as many grains as we do today. In this traditional diets you could get great nourishment from grains.
The type of grain we consume today is not only greatly denatured, but highly processed (not in a good slow way). In an article by Dr Amy Myers she states: “We’re no longer eating the wheat that our parents ate. In order to have the drought-resistant, bug-resistant and faster growing wheat that we have today, we’ve hybridized the grain.” This has created new proteins that are part of what has led to some of the gluten intolerance problems.
Basically the problem is that our bodies can not break down gluten. Once these proteins reach our gut they can provoke a chain reaction (with the cells lining the intestine) that can lead to leaky gut syndrome. This allows particles of undigested food to get into our bloodstream where other cells might treat as infection. One thing leads to another and well you could end up with a lot of problems, included but not limited to, bloating, inflammation, depression, anemia and even autism. For more information on this there is a great article by Dr. Mark Hymman, Gluten: What you don’t know might kill you, that goes into detail on the subject.
In my opinion we should lower our consumption of grains in general. Gluten-free products included, since most are just as unhealthy as their counterpart. When it comes to children this is especially true. A baby’s ability to digest grains does not fully develop till about 18 months. Making cereals, breads and other grains troublesome and in my opinion a terrible choice. Ideally babies diet should be rich in animal protein and healthy fats, adding fruits and vegetables later, then much later grains.
Our diets should consist mostly of protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates (aka vegetables). Top that of with lots of water, excerise and sleep and you’ll feel like a champ :).
In a nutshell, if you suspect you might be gluten intolerant or allergic conduct an elimination diet to figure it out. My advise is to consume gluten containing foods in moderation (unless you have celiac) and grains in well prepared ways (soaked, fermented or sprouted) when ever possible. Ultimately inform yourself, so you don’t find yourself on tv looking like a fool :). Be smart, be healthy, you can do it!