Why A Gluten-Free Diet May Be Right For You
Gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, and spelt, wreaks havoc in people with celiac disease, triggering an immune reaction that damages the small intestine and prevents absorption of nutrients.
According to statistics from the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, an average of one out of every 133 otherwise healthy people in the United States suffer from celiac disease (CD), but previous studies have found that this number may be as high as 1 in 33 in at-risk populations.
Those with celiac disease must avoid gluten to manage the condition, but according to the latest studies, there is an epidemic of people with hidden intolerance to wheat products and gluten who would benefit from avoiding it entirely as well. For many people, when they eliminate all gluten from their diets, they see a noticeable improvement in their energy and overall well-being.
So Why Is Gluten Bad For Us?
Gluten-containing grains, such as wheat, contain gliadin molecules.When gliadin in gluten becomes water soluble, it is free to bind to cells in your body. If you are sensitive, your body will make antibodies to gliadin and attack the cells gliadin has attached itself to, treating those cells as an infection. This immune response damages surrounding tissue and has the potential to set off, or exacerbate, MANY other health problems throughout your body, which is why gluten can have such a devastating effect on your overall health.
Since gluten often hides in processed foods like ready-made soups, soy sauce, candies, cold cuts, and various low- and no-fat products, as well as refined grain products like bread, pizza crust, pasta, cookies and pastries, when you cut all of these foods from your diet, you end up cutting out primarily refined carbohydrates, which are likely to result in weight gain and obesity.
So it’s very possible that switching to a gluten-free diet could help you lose weight, particularly if you’ve been eating a lot of refined gluten-containing foods. When eating gluten-free, however, you need to be careful that you’re replacing the gluten-containing foods with healthy choices, like vegetables and other whole foods. If you instead opt for gluten-free processed foods, like the wide assortment of gluten-free cookies, pasta and breads that are now commercially available, there’s a good chance that you will not lose weight, and may actually gain instead. To lose weight effectively, you’ve still got to follow the principles of a healthy diet, which includes avoiding gluten-containing grains and focusing on whole food choices, not processed alternatives.
So Which Grains Are Naturally Gluten-Free?
Rice (white and brown, brown is unrefined, being a much healthier choice)
Corn (only have non GMO, try blue cornmeal for variety)
Quinoa (contains a balanced set of essential amino acids, making it a complete protein)
Amaranth (high in protein, also high in the amino acid lysine)
Buckwheat (try soba, Japanese wheat-free noodles, or groats, for an oatmeal alternative)
Millet (rich in B vitamins, another great wheat-free grain)
A Note About Oats
Although the protein in oats is not the exact same problematic protein found in wheat, rye, barley and spelt, commercial oats have been found to contain gluten, possibly due to cross contamination in the harvesting, storing and milling process. It is best to eliminate oats from your diet as well if you need to avoid gluten entirely.
So What Other Foods Are Gluten-Free?
Lots of Fresh (organic and local if possible) Produce – good for everybody and the MOST important food group- dark leafy greens, brightly colored peppers, squashes, broccoli, etc, should be 80-90% of your meals.
Potatoes, try red or blue for variety, and sweet potatoes, parsnips, beets, burdock, and other root vegetables to create a satisfying gluten-free side dish, hearty soup, or in place of rice with stir fry or waterless cooked vegetables.
Eggs, poultry, beef (organic and grass-fed), wild caught fish- lean, quality proteins should be 10-20% of your meals.
If you are NOT allergic to casein and whey (the two proteins found in milk), and NOT lactose intolerant (unable to digest lactose, the sugar present in milk), then plain organic yogurt is a great source of protein, calcium, and healthy probiotics. So is fresh organic goat cheese (chevre) and feta. Also look for an imported wedge of good Parmesan or aged cheddar; both are high in calcium and have zero lactose. Organic dairy can also count as a great source of protein in the place of meat or fish in a meal.
Legumes, Nuts, and Seeds are another great source of protein, as well as good fats, minerals, and fiber. Try tahini, made from sesame seeds, on a brown rice cake for a delicious snack, or use it in a variety of middle eastern dishes. Almonds and almond butter also provide a delicious, healthy snack and are wonderful additions in a number of dishes. Black beans, pintos, garbonzo beans (chick peas), and lentils provide a limitless array of high protein, low fat dishes when paired with a gluten-free grain, waterless cooked veggies, and fresh or dried herbs, spices, and sea salt to taste.
When Going Gluten-Free, Patience Is A Virtue!
The most important thing to remember when starting on a gluten-free diet is to take it one day at a time and be patient! Most people don’t feel better immediately, and it may take 30 to 60 days for the inflammation to subside, and up to 9 to 12 months for the lining of your small intestine to heal.
On some occasions, an individual may experience significant improvement within weeks of eliminating gluten from their diet, but in other cases people may feel considerably worse upon initially starting a gluten-free diet, which may be due to other unidentified food allergies and food sensitivities. It’s important to stick with the plan, because by around 6 to 9 months of eliminating gluten from your diet noticeable physical and mental, and emotional changes will have taken place.