Gluten-Free: Is It For Me?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Celiac Disease is an auto-immune digestive disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients when Gluten is ingested. So what if you took the test and it came back negative for Celiac Disease, but you are certain that gluten is causing you serious gastrointestinal distress? This population, which makes up at least 6 times the amount of people with actual Celiac, is referred to as, a much less dangerous condition called Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS). If you experience bloating, gas, diarrhea, reflux or, even non digestive symptoms such as, attention deficit, fatigue and irritability after eating gluten-filled food products, you likely have NCGS.

Since Gluten is not just found in obvious sources of wheat, like breads, pastas, cereals, etc, but also lurks in condiments, soups, and alcohol, a 100% Gluten-free diet is a huge challenge to tackle. You need to be extremely well-versed on the foods that are completely safe and which foods might be contaminated. If you’re a person who eats out for most meals, you will also need to be prepared with tons of questions to ask the servers each time you order.

Having said that, before you try to eliminate every last bit of gluten in your diet, understand the facts:

1) Wheat and Gluten are 2 separate things. While wheat products always contain gluten, gluten products do not always contain wheat. A wheat allergy is typically a different condition than a gluten intolerance, however, they have some similar physical side effects. If you are unsure whether a certain food product contains gluten and there is no “gluten-free label,” check with the manufacturer. Keep in mind, gluten can be found in almost any type of food, not just bread products.

2) You can get a gluten intolerance test. Most physicians or wellness centers will do food sensitivity blood tests on site that will reveal if you are, in fact, sensitive to gluten.

3) Gluten-free does NOT mean calorie-free. Many new books, including one of Amazon’s best seller’s, “Wheat Belly” (a highly convincing book by the way), explain how gluten is the “real cause behind the never-ending Obesity epidemic and The Metabolic Syndrome.” There is still little evidence to support this grossly misleading theory and can cause more harm than good. For example, if you switch over to a gluten-free diet but yet, still eat 4,000 calories of gluten-free foods, your body will still be taking in…..wait for it….4,000 calories!!! Needless to say, and unfortunately, the weight loss miracle you were expecting, will not likely happen for you.

4) Low (not no) gluten diets are much healthier and easier to follow, especially for certain populations. People with, not just Celiac Disease but also, other digestive and auto-immune conditions such as Arthritis, Hashimoto’s, Crohn’s/Colitis, IBS, Hormonal Imbalances, Candida and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, may benefit from a low gluten diet.

You may be asking, “why is it that all of the sudden gluten is becoming such a huge deal now when it wasn’t before?” Many experts believe the way that gluten containing grains, specifically wheat, are being grown and genetically modified these days, is the real cause of the problem. Due to the financial needs of the economy, farmers are being forced to produce genetically modified foods or foods that have had their DNA changed, in order to yield higher amounts that will survive environmental abuse, and thus increase sales. Since these “more advanced” types of grains have never been tested on humans, we are left to pick up all the pieces.

Nick VanMeter