All of the recent discussions about the debate on gluten can seem overwhelming. Many have asked me “What is gluten? Why is it bad? Do I really need to avoid it?” So I thought I would share more about this topic for anyone else who may be interested.
Some people may consider going gluten-free to be a “trend” while others legitimately believe it has a debilitating effect on their bodies. If you would have asked me 6 months ago about my take on gluten, I would have fallen into the “trend” category and admitted I was skeptical. That skepticism, along with learning from IIN and becoming educated on the topic from various resources, has completely changed my view on gluten. It has sparked an interest in me that I want to share.
What is Gluten? Gluten by definition is a protein composite (made up of glutenin and gliadin) that binds to wheat and other grains such as rye and barley. Gluten has elasticity and a glue-like capacity to hold flour products together and provide them with a chewy texture.
Gluten is linked to a more common autoimmune disease called Celiac disease, which occurs when the proteins in gluten trigger your immune system to overreact with strong and unusual antibodies. Over time, the reaction caused by these antibodies wears down the villi that line the walls of your intestine. The villi, in a healthy gut, grab and absorb nutrients as food passes through your lower digestive tract. With celiac disease, the symptoms slowly destroy these villi and you become less and less able to process any nutrition from your food. Celiac disease also triggers inflammation of the intestinal wall. This combination of absorption-killing villous atrophy and inflammation sets off a domino-effect of increasingly serious health problems. Some of the more common symptoms of Celiac disease include bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhea, depression, headaches and unexplained weight loss.
Gluten not only affects those with Celiac disease, but also people with other autoimmune diseases such as Hashimoto’s, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and more. These autoimmune diseases cause the immune system to mistakenly attack and destroy healthy body tissue, causing internal inflammation and other serious symptoms. Research has shown that there is a direct relationship between gluten and inflammation, so removing gluten from your diet can be one simple change you can make to help your body heal and, ultimately, feel better.
Studies have shown that our intake of wheat and processed foods containing wheat gluten might be to blame for an increased incidence of Celiac disease. Decades ago, our family members either farmed or gathered their food sources from local farmers. They also made their own breads and baked goods from scratch with flour that didn’t contain this modified wheat gluten. The rise in celiac disease is not surprising considering our ancestry’s habits vs. the rise in processed foods and the whole wheat phenomenon.
Gluten is still a hot topic today and the subject of a lot of research, but from where the debate stands now, there is no doubt that an increased intake of gluten in one’s diet can have a negative effect on autoimmune disease and internal inflammation.
I, myself, have Hashimoto’s disease, where my body is attacking my thyroid. I have cut a majority of gluten out of my diet for the past 4 months and don’t intend on bringing it back in. Cutting out gluten allows me to really think about what I am eating before eating it. I feel better, I have more energy, and overall I know in the long run this will be better for me and my body.
My mother, on the other hand has seen immediate results by cutting out gluten. She has suffered from Rheumatoid Arthritis since her early 30’s. She has battled this disease for so many years and is currently taking an injectable medication to control the pain in her joints. More so than ever, I want to see her gain control of her health and improve her overall well being. I put her on an anti-inflammatory, gluten free diet 2 weeks ago and today she was supposed to receive another injection but her knees didn’t hurt!! I couldn’t believe it! Not to mention she has also lost 7 pounds!;) She is waiting another week to see if she can stretch the medication out a bit further. We will see how she continues but I truly believe there is a direct relationship between gluten, inflammation, and autoimmune disease.
For additional information regarding this topic, I recommend reading Dr. Susan Blum’s book “The Immune System Recovery Plan”. It is incredibly insightful and a very easy read.
Below are some helpful websites and a link to my recipes which include a few gluten free options:
It is my intention to bring awareness and light to topics such as this one and to ultimately empower others to take control of their health and well being. Knowledge is power. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns –I would love to hear from you!