What’s the Deal with Gluten?
- Mel’s weekly food pick: Applegate Organics Sunday Bacon
- Mel’s weekly recipe pick: Purely PMS Brownie Bites
Gluten is the protein found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, non-gluten free oats, and processed foods containing these ingredients (i.e. bread, cereal, pasta, pancakes, pizza, bakery and other packaged foods).
Gluten causes a whole spectrum of problems for many people, ranging from non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) to celiac disease— an autoimmune condition where ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine, creating iron deficiency anemia, joint pain, depression, anxiety, fatigue, and migraines.
According to the Celiac Disease Foundation, some people experience symptoms of celiac disease, such as foggy mind, depression, ADHD-like behavior, abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, bone or joint pain, and chronic fatigue, when they have gluten in their diet, but they do not test positive for celiac disease. NCGS is generally used to refer to this condition; removing gluten from the diet resolves symptoms.
Why does it seem like gluten intolerance is more of a recent problem?
When I was a kid, there was no such thing as gluten sensitivity. Although it can seem like a fad, I can tell you it is indeed a real thing.
Due to hybridization of wheat grown in the United States, the quality and type of proteins and starches in wheat have changed, creating a higher gluten content than ever before. The result is an overwhelming increase in the diagnosis of celiac disease and gluten intolerance.
Food allergies and sensitivities create an inflammatory state in the body, leading to weight gain and insulin resistance. So if you suspect you are intolerant of gluten, it would be wise to eliminate it for a six-week trial to see if your blood glucose numbers and weight improve. This also holds true for other common food allergies and sensitivities, like dairy, soy, eggs, shellfish, and peanuts.
Mel’s experience with gluten
Although I never officially set out to remove gluten from my diet, it turned out that most of the food I was eating just happened to be naturally gluten-free, such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, lentils, seafood, and natural, unprocessed meats.
After a while, I noticed a subtle, yet significant improvement in my digestion and also quite a bit less brain fog and joint pain. If a little gluten sneaks into my diet in the form of an occasional donut, brownie or cookie, it’s not like I suffer horrible side effects or anything like that, but I also don’t feel 100%. I simply choose not to make it a habit because it’s just not worth it to me.
Some of my favorite gluten-free alternatives include:
- Pasta: Explore Cuisine; Banza
- Bread: Food for Life Sprouted Gluten Free Bread; Canyon Bakehouse
- Pizza crust: The Essential Baking Company
- Cereal: Love Grown Power O’s (Original flavor)
- Crackers: Simple Mills
- Cookies: Pamela’s; Tate’s Bake Shop
- Pancakes: Birch Benders
Recommended gluten-free grains
If you choose to eat grains, I recommend aiming for small amounts of what I call “upgraded” grains. These include whole, minimally processed, non-GMO, gluten-free grains such as:
- Brown rice
- Wild rice (which is actually a semi-aquatic grass)
- Quinoa (which is actually a seed)
- Gluten-free steel-cut oats
If you happened to eat a gluten-containing grain, opt for sprouted varieties. Sprouting— which involves soaking grains, seeds, beans, legumes or nuts in water until a sprout forms— can reduce the gluten content by almost 50%. Studies also show that sprouted grains become easier to digest and breakdown for those with diabetes because of changes in the amount of enzymes available, which is needed to properly digest glucose.
Mel’s weekly food pick:
Applegate Organics Sunday Bacon
Listen, I get it. I’m not asking you to give it up for a couple of reasons: First, it’s not necessary because it can absolutely fit in small amounts on occasion. Second, thanks to companies like Applegate, you can now have your bacon and eat it too!
Applegate Organics Sunday Bacon is humanely raised, USDA organic, and free of: nitrites, nitrates, preservatives, hormones, GMOs, gluten, and antibiotics. Everything you should look for when purchasing bacon.
Check out this week’s recipe pick for Purely PMS Brownie Bites. These decadent little morsels are made without flour (so they are gluten-free), and are topped with drizzled dark chocolate, cacao nibs and bacon pieces.
You’re welcome! 🙂