What is gluten anyway?
Gluten is a mixture of plant proteins found in wheat and related grains, including rye, barley and oat. So, plant proteins. That doesn’t sound bad, right? Keep reading as we look a little closer.
But it’s natural. Our ancestors ate wheat!
The wheat of today is very different from the wheat our ancestors ate.
After WWII, in order to improve baked goods and to achieve higher yields in crops, scientists developed new strains of wheat that contain entirely new forms of protein not found in any of the original plants. In fact, according to Dr. William Davis, author of “Wheat Belly”, 5% of proteins generated in these alteration are not found in the original plants (read more here).
These new proteins are what make our baked goods fluffier. Scientists were also able to change the form of gluten to allow it to be dissolved into liquids, so it could be added to other products that didn’t previously contain gluten, like lunch meat and shampoo.
This means that we are not only eating a different kind of gluten than our ancestors ate, we are also being exposed to lots more of it. Additionally, the way grind our grains into very fine flours produces much higher levels of starch compared to what our ancestors ate.
Why Should I Follow a Gluten Free Diet?
Here are 5 good reasons to avoid gluten:
1) Gluten rips little holes in your intestines, contributing to “leaky gut”.
2) Gluten creates inflammation that contributes to pain and disease. Gluten is now associated with 55 diseases — and not just Celiac disease.
Almost every degenerative disease is linked to excessive inflammation, including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disease, osteoporosis and multiple sclerosis to name a few. These diseases take years to create and unfortunately the symptoms of the disease only occur in the late stages of its creation so prevention is key and inflammation is the biggest culprit.
Even mainstream medicine is starting to catch onto this. On October 17, 2016, scientists presented evidence at UEG Week demonstrating “that a protein in wheat triggers the inflammation of chronic health conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, and also contributes towards the development of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity.” (Read more at https://www.ueg.eu/press/releases/ueg-press-release/article/new-study-links-protein-in-wheat-to-the-inflammation-of-chronic-health-conditions/
3) Gluten causes your body to attack your own thyroid!
The gluten molecule looks like your thyroid tissue. When your immune system is trying to protect you against an invader (gluten in this instance), the gluten it is searching for looks like your thyroid tissue so your antibodies begins to attack your own thyroid and you develop thyroid disease.
4) Gluten damages the intestines and reduces your ability to get nutrition from your food.
5) Most foods that contain gluten also contain sugar.
Ok, then I’ll just eat organic whole-wheat. Problem solved, right?
No, unfortunately the problems listed above have nothing to do with whether it is organic or not. Although organic is almost always better because it almost always means fewer toxic chemicals are added to the food, gluten is not a toxic additive. So even organic wheat will cause all of the effects listed in this article.
Gluten is everywhere!
Gluten is found in so many unlikely places, like Tamari, maltodextrin, vanilla extract made with grain alcohol, broth, citric acid. You really need to be a detective to find them. Luckily, there is an app for that! The Celiac Disease Foundation made an app call Eat! Gluten-Free which is available for FREE on the App Store or Google Play Store!
There are healthy organic, no- or low-sugar choices.
Gluten-free has almost become a fad at this point, but it is a health choice that needs to be addressed. And just eating gluten-free isn’t enough as many gluten-free products contain sugar and are highly processed.
Organic whole grains are the healthiest. You may consider things like Amarynth or Buckwheat, which are not true grains, but are grain-like seeds from a broadleaf plant. There are also great heirloom (ancient and unaltered) grains like Einkorn, Ferro, etc. There are many books on cooking without gluten. And you don’t necessarily have to give up on all grains. You just have to make choices that will impact your health in a positive way!
One of the things we hear most often is that gluten-free doesn’t taste as good. While that can be true, we have selected a few of our favorite gluten-free options and linked to them below.
Our Favorite Gluten-Free Options:
Happy Campers is a dedicated gluten-free bakery! They use only organic non-GMO ingredients. We recommend the “Hemp Hemp Hooray” because it has no sugar, but the “Stompin’ Good Seedy Buckwheat Molasses” and “Classy Slice” only have one gram of sugar per slice so are also acceptable: http://www.gethappycampersgf.com/
BFree is made in Dublin Ireland. It isn’t organic (although being from Ireland, it is probably better quality), but it also has no added sugar: www.bfreefoods.com
Canyon Bakehouse is not organic and it is sweetened, so one slice has two grams of sugar: http://canyonglutenfree.com/buy-gluten-free-bread-products/
Manna’s is organic. They do sweeten it a little so one slice has one gram of sugar. You can order it online if no one carries it near you. It is shipped frozen. This is a little more dense and has a more hearty taste which some people just love. The bread is also smaller – not like the giant slices of bread available out there: http://www.mannaorganicbakery.com/ver.php/mod/catalogo/categoria/13/Gluten%20Free%20Breads
Our favorite pasta: Many health food stores and websites sell Tinkyada’s gluten-free pastas which are not mushy like other brands — just make sure that you don’t overcook it. VitaCost sells it here: https://www.vitacost.com/productResults.aspx?N=1309481+4293081426+4293081418+2008226&Ne=1&Ns=P_SoldQuantity%7c1
Another thing you may like is Einkorn pasta and crackers. Einkorn is a heritage wheat, which means that they are the same grain that Egyptians ate! There is a company called Jovial Foods which sells einkorn pasta and crackers here: https://jovialfoods.com/product-category/einkorn/. You can also buy these from VitaCost here: https://www.vitacost.com/productResults.aspx?N=0&ss=1&Ntt=einkorn The pasta tastes a little like what you would imagine whole wheat pasta would taste like, but the crackers are delicious and don’t taste gluten-free at all!
The best-tasting gluten-free crackers we have found (in addition to the Jovial crackers above) are Mary’s Gone Crackers: https://www.vitacost.com/marys-gone-crackers-organic-real-thin-crackers-gluten-free Unfortunately, they are quite processed, so not as healthy.
One of our recent favorites for gluten-free crackers are Jilz, though they are more unique in texture and flavor: https://www.jilzglutenfree.com/ These are minimally processed and actually pretty healthy – and delicious!
Hopefully you will find some things in here that you like! And if you are experimenting with gluten-free recipes or products and find something great, please let us know. We are trying to expand out gluten-free section.
The Autoimmunity Fix by Tom O’Bryan DC, CCN, DACBN, The Autoimmune Solution and The Thyroid Connection by Amy Myers, MD, The Blood Sugar Solution by Mark Hyman, MD
N England Journal of Medicine 2002; 346:180-188 January 17, 2002
“Markers of Potential Coeliac Disease in Patients with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis,” European Journal of Endocrinology 146, no.4