What’s so scary about our non-paleo plate of (almost) pure gluten pictured above? Fear of it has created an estimated $4 billion annual market for gluten-free products…
Is it all marketing hype or are there some genuinely healthy reasons to avoid gluten in your diet?
After all, if you look close enough, gluten seems to be in just about everything. As you may know, gluten is a group of proteins found in grains such as wheat, rye, and barley. It’s mainly used as a binder in foods from cheese spreads to pizza dough, but you’ll also find it in things like hair thickening conditioners, moisturizers, mascara, and even wallpaper paste.
Here’s the problem: many people can’t tolerate the most common food additive on the planet.
An estimated 5% to 10% of the population has a sensitivity to gluten. Some experts claim gluten impacts a much higher percentage. But nearly all the gluten gurus agree on one thing: the vast majority of people who are gluten intolerant will never know that it’s the main culprit in many of their ongoing health issues.
When you’re sensitive to gluten, your body launches an attack against the gluten proteins, often causing abdominal discomfort along with inflammation – in part from your body’s release of cytokines. Cytokines are essential for your body to fight infections, but when you produce too many of them they can do some real damage. There’s evidence cytokines may be a factor in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and even autism.
A much bigger problem than the occasional upset tummy is celiac disease. Medical experts estimate 1 in 133 people suffer from it, and again many docs say that figure is likely much higher – upwards of 1 in 30. Celiac disease is gluten sensitivity pushed to the max. For people with genes that make them particularly susceptible to celiac disease, gluten can trigger a lifelong problem that can affect not just their small intestine, but every organ in their body.
Personally, my goals of eating nutritious real foods and avoiding gluten are the main reasons I’ve stuck with the paleo lifestyle for nearly a year and a half. I don’t know if I have a gluten-sensitivity or not, but since I’ve scrubbed gluten from my diet and enjoyed all the other good stuff on the paleo plan, I no longer have digestive issues. That’s why you may see a few little cheats in some of my treat recipes (like dark chocolate) – but never, ever grass grains.
What are some signs you or someone you love may be sensitive to gluten? Several hundred symptoms have been identified, but the main ones seem to be:
- Frequent abdominal discomfort or pain, which may include bloating or diarrhea
- Chronic muscle aches and pains
- Joint inflammation or swelling
- Fatigue or mental fogginess after eating a meal that includes gluten
- Migraine headaches
- A diagnosis of chronic fatigue or fibromyalgia
- Chronic mood issues (anxiety, depression) or mood swings, and Attention Deficit Disorder
Of course, check with a medical professional if you think you may be gluten intolerant for further evaluation. But a good test is to simply stop consuming grain-based foods and packaged products containing gluten proteins and see if you feel better in a few weeks.
Thanks for letting me geek out a little on gluten…hope it helps!
So now you want to know where the recipe is, right?
Well that beautiful plate of rubbery gluten above didn’t come in a package you know.
It was hand-crafted with loving care (by my husband) and I’ll be sharing that “recipe” (with lots of pictures) in my next post!