Dangers Of Gluten & Benefits Of Gluten Free
Gluten free living has gained mixed attention in recent years. Many individuals have dismissed the benefits of gluten free as a “fad,” and believe that the diet is nothing more than the latest weight loss trend. It is also thought by some that there are no real dangers of gluten and that being gluten free can lead to nutritional deficiencies. On the other side of the spectrum, thousands of people who have suffered for years with unexplained health problems have received a diagnosis due to the increased awareness of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Gluten today is more harmful than ever. The increased number of people being diagnosed with celiac disease is not due to awareness. Gluten is becoming more dangerous due to hybridization, toxins like glyphosate.
Wheat crops and modern agriculture has been drastically altered since the 1960’s. In this era, wheat was specifically designed to become resistant to disease and carry more carbohydrates. Not only did they succeed but wheat also was upgraded to contain more gluten. Around the same time that these new crops were created, processed foods began to rise in popularity.
A boom in production and availability made it even easier to eat simple-to-prepare, flavorful meals. People began to eat more foods containing wheat, which was higher in gluten than ever before. The standard American diet is overloaded with gluten laden, processed foods. It is no surprise that, due to these factors, celiac disease and gluten sensitivity are now commonplace.
What Exactly is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. The purpose of this protein is to help hold together the shape of foods (acting as a sort of “glue” that binds). It also provides the elastic, chewy texture found in foods such as bread, pastries, etc. Aside from these functions, gluten serves no nutritional benefit. Instead, the dangers of gluten far outweigh any possible benefits.
The Hidden Dangers of Gluten
Many individuals are aware of the problems caused when individuals with celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity consume the protein. For those who do not suffer from either of these conditions, gluten can cause inflammation and mild digestive issues. Aside from these well-known problems, there are hidden dangers of gluten that frequently go unnoticed.
The first hidden danger of gluten is the use of glyphosate. Round Up is a potent weed killer that contains the chemical glyphosate. Today GMO crops and GMO wheat is treated with this active chemical. Recent research has linked glyphosate to an extensive list of health conditions including Crohn’s disease, colitis, food intolerance, autism, autoimmune diseases, and more.
A second hidden danger of gluten is the resulting increase of Zonulin in the body. Zonulin is a protein that is responsible for controlling the binding of the cells that line the intestines. The structures that hold these cells together are commonly referred to as tight junctions. When there is excess Zonulin present in the body, the tight junctions do not perform properly. This causes toxins to leak past the cell wall, which negatively impacts the blood brain barrier.
Genetics & Gluten
Genetics largely determine how our bodies process gluten. Specific genes in our DNA have been associated with gluten intolerance. These genes often require a triggering event to become active. Stress, infections, inadequate nutrition, a lack of sleep, and other natural causes are often the culprit. Additionally, celiac disease is also caused by our genetics. The autoimmune condition is always hereditary. If you have a sibling or parent with the disease, you have a 1 in 10 chance of developing the condition.
Possible Gluten-Related Symptoms
It is estimated that approximately 97% of people with celiac disease in the United States are undiagnosed. Research has also shown that as many as 80% of people are sensitive to gluten. Below is a list of symptoms that can identify if you are suffering from the dangers of gluten:
- Digestive problems
- Stomach pain
- Change in weight (gain or loss)
- Nutrient deficiency
- Mood swings
- Brain fog
It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list. Gluten consumption can cause and aggravate a wide variety of health issues. Additionally, if you are experiencing one or more of these symptoms, it is best to consult with your doctor to ensure that you receive proper treatment.
Top Gluten Filled Foods
While it is important to be aware that most processed foods can contain gluten, there are certain foods that always or frequently contain gluten:
- Alcoholic beverages (beer, liquor)
- Condiments (dressing, sauces, etc.)
One of the biggest dangers of gluten for those who have celiac disease is cross-contamination. Buying foods that are certified gluten free is always the best when trying to live a gluten free lifestyle. Gluten free labels have a standard that ensure gluten is kept below strict parts per million thresholds. Having a gluten free label also ensures the product is safe from cross-contamination.
Benefits of Gluten Free Living
The benefits of removing gluten from your diet vary greatly depending on the severity of your symptoms. If you are suffering from undiagnosed celiac disease, removing gluten from your diet will dramatically improve your health. Severe stomach pains and digestive discomfort will lift within weeks to a few months. If you suffer from a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you can expect to feel the relief of similar symptoms.
Even if you do not suffer from celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, a gluten free diet can also lead to the following improvements in your health:
- Decreased inflammation
- Reduced risk of heart disease
- Reduced risk of certain types of cancer
- Easier to lose excess weight
- Improved digestion
- Increased energy levels
Best Gluten Free Alternatives
The best (and healthiest) way to avoid the dangers of gluten is to completely eliminate processed foods. Whole foods (such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, meats, etc.) are naturally free of gluten. These foods do not require you to spend hours sifting through ingredient lists. Processed foods contain excess salt and sugar. Eating whole foods that are not packaged or processed is the best way to avoid gluten. If you do choose to eat processed foods, the safest way to eat gluten free is to select products that are certified gluten free. After shifting to a diet of whole, gluten free foods, you can expect to reap the benefits of gluten free living.
Avoiding gluten can have amazingly positive effects on your body. Try my favorite Low Carb Pizza Crust Recipe and see how great gluten free living can be.