Gluten is a protein that’s found in the grains wheat, barley, rye and spelt. It consists of two proteins - gliadin and glutenin. It is the gliadin protein that most people react negatively to.
Celiac disease is a condition where the immune system mistakes gluten for a foreign invader, and therefore it attacks it. However, in this process the immune system attacks the gluten and the intestinal wall itself. Celiac disease is classed as an autoimmune disease as the body attacks itself. This then leads to degeneration of the intestinal lining (the villi) causing nutrient deficiencies, fatigue, digestive issues and many more symptoms. A large percentage of people with celiac disease don’t actually present with any digestive issues, therefore it can be difficult to diagnose.
Gluten sensitivity is much more common than celiac disease and can also be serious. This occurs when there is an adverse reaction to gluten with an improvement of symptoms when taking gluten out of the diet. Many people with IBS also see improvements.
There are many studies showing that gluten can cause inflammation in the intestine and can cause leaky gut. There are also some studies that link brain disorders (such as autism and epilepsy) with gluten. These patients see significant improvements when going gluten free.
However, why are more and more people finding they have sensitivities to gluten when it used to be a staple in our diet for thousands of years? It isn’t a new food, but most diet related diseases are relatively new. The reason for this is that wheat today is very different to the wheat a thousand years ago....or even 100 years ago! The wheat today is processed very differently to make it more low cost, we also prepare the grains very differently and is genetically and biologically different. We used to soak and ferment the grains, and bread used to be made using slow rise yeast. Soaking and fermenting the grains disables the enzyme inhibitors, leading to more accessible nutrients and it reduces the lectins and phytic acids. Today the flour is bleached and the bread is made with quick acting yeast. Therefore bread and pasta are not like the foods our ancestors ate.
If you experience any of the symptoms below why not try going gluten free for a month and see what happens-
- ADHD-like behaviour
- brain fog
- chronic fatigue
- autoimmune diseases • low immunity
- skin problems
- hormone imbalance• headaches
- joint aches
The world seems to have gone gluten free mad. Supermarkets are getting more and more gluten free products on their shelves and it seems like everyone knows something about gluten. Gone are the days when people looked at you funny for even mentioning it!
As much as I am pleased that the world is becoming more health conscious, I am also upset at how the big companies are using this to their advantage. Most of the products on the shelves are highly processed, full of sugar and are still very unhealthy, but because it has been labelled ‘gluten free’ people think they have made a healthy choice.
I tell my clients to go naturally gluten free, rather than just buying the processed products. Here are some healthy alternatives to your favourite gluten foods-
This is an easy one as there are lots of delicious options.
- Mung bean pasta (I use Explore Asian which you can get from Ocado)
- Black bean pasta (I use Explore Asian which you can get from Ocado)
- Brown rice pasta
- Buckwheat noodles
- Courgetti (courgette noodles)
This is not so easy as all gluten free breads are full of nasty ingredients and many other breads contain gluten. You can get breads made from millet, but these are expensive and don't come in very big loafs! Making your own breads are the best option if you miss having bread.
- Homemade breads (see my recipes)
- Brown rice cakes
- Gluten free oat cakes
Just because you’re gluten free it doesn’t mean you have to go without! These options below are great, but if you really want the real thing (on the rare occasion) you can get gluten free bases and they also do gluten free bases in a lot of restaurants now.
- Cauliflower pizza base
- Quinoa pizza base (see my recipes)
- Omelette topped with pizza toppings, finished under the grill
Not only are cereals full of gluten, they're also full of sugar and are highly processed. These options are naturally gluten free and are full of nutrients.
- Gluten free rolled oats (oats are naturally gluten free but are usually processed with gluten grains, so always buy certified gluten free).
- Quinoa porridge
- Homemade granola
- Chia seed pudding (see my recipes)
Always check the labels of condiments as there can be gluten hidden in products you never even thought of!
- Tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
- Organic vegetable boullion powder
- Apple cider vinegar
- Fresh herbs and spices
- Homemade sauces such as ketchup, mayo etc.
Even if you don’t get any symptoms of gluten sensitivity it is still a great way of moving to a more unprocessed and natural diet. Give it a go and see how you feel!
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