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Talk about a scary word!
A word driving panic into the hearts of millions, leaving people flocking to the hundreds of new gluten-free products popping up daily on grocery store shelves.
Even Domino’s Pizza has a gluten-free pizza. Gluten may be the least of your worries.
I’ve been asked my thoughts on gluten, so today I am sharing.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in grains. Gluten is literally the glue giving dough its elasticity, helping it rise and maintain shape. It also provides a chewy texture to baked goods. Gluten is found in all grains, but prolamins (proteins) found in rice and corn gluten are different than the prolamins in wheat, barley, and rye. Making the first more tolerable to some than the latter.
What’s the big deal with gluten?
It’s estimated as little as 1% (upward to 6%) of the population suffer from health issues as a result of eating gluten containing grains. These can include: gluten allergy, gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity, and celiac disease. People with gluten troubles often complain about stomach pain, heartburn, brain fog, headaches, skin rashes, and fatigue.
The sudden rise in gluten sensitives is often blamed on eating lots of wheat. Wheat that has been modernized, a hybrid due to cross breeding, containing a new protein called gliadin. While the wheat we consume today may not be the same wheat (or variety) found in Biblical days, humans have been cross-breeding plants successfully for thousands of years without the complaints of sensitives heard today.
Most people today don’t eat true, pure whole grains. For years our culture has consumed nothing more than wheat products stripped of all good vitamins and minerals: white flour. As a result of stripping white flour of all that is good, producers fortify this flour by adding synthetic vitamins which can prove to be dangerous.
Along with consuming large amounts of white flour (fancy names include “wheat bread” or “multi-grain”) void of naturally occurring vitamins and minerals, this wheat is not properly prepared for digestion.
Along with a rise in white flour (stripped wheat) consumption, diets today are also void of fermented and probiotic foods, such as: yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and kim chi. Food and drink, prepared and consumed by traditional societies, to help restore the good flora (bacteria) found in the gut. Without good gut flora one will experience many of the symptoms assigned to gluten sensitivities.
Another factor, antibiotics. Antibiotics can be found in our food supply due to sick animals eating less than ideal food in less than ideal conditions (meat, dairy, and eggs). Antibiotics are also carelessly prescribed by many doctors for any little cut or sickness. Antibiotics create havoc in the gut leaving it defenseless and therefore more irritable.
Processed food consumption has also been on the rise in this country over the last 40 years making up for nearly 70% of the American diet. With nearly 5,000 additives found in processed “food”. Leaving products that appear like food but are nothing more than scientific concoctions created in labs. Over 5,000 substances unknown to the human body.
From diets lacking good bacteria providing good gut flora to food drowning in antibiotics to the majority of our diets being consumed in fake food-like substances, I believe the modern day gut is at war, and gluten is far from the true enemy.
Is Going Gluten-Free Healthy?
I believe going gluten-free can be a healthy choice. For someone with (around 1% of the population) true celiac disease a gluten-free lifestyle can be the difference between life and death, literally. For others going gluten-free, can be a healing stage along with eliminating other foods and focusing on certain healing food and drink. This is a temporary elimination as seen with GAPS or The Maker’s Diet.
But what about the rest of us, the other 90% of us?
Companies would like consumers to believe that gluten-free is the way to go, but is it?
I personally believe going gluten-free IS NOT a healthy choice for the rest of us. Typically, when one experiences gluten symptoms and assumes a gluten-free lifestyle a person substitutes their store-bought “wheat” bread for a gluten-free variety.
While many breads and other products may be gluten-free, they generally contains many other ingredients which cause alarm. Take a look at the ingredients in a very popular gluten-free bread:
UDI’S BEST BLEND (TAPIOCA & POTATO STARCH, BROWN RICE FLOUR, MODIFIED TAPIOCA STARCH), WATER, NON-GMO VEGETABLE OIL (CANOLA OR SUNFLOWER OR SAFFLOWER), EGG WHITES, TAPIOCA MALTODEXTRIN, EVAPORATED CANE JUICE, TAPIOCA SYRUP, YEAST, XANTHAN GUM, SALT, BAKING POWDER (SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, SODIUM BICARBONATE, CORN STARCH, MONOCALCIUM PHOSPHATE), CULTURED CORN SYRUP SOLIDS (NATURAL MOLD INHIBITOR), ENZYMES.
I’ll take my three-ingredient sourdough bread made with gluten containing organic whole wheat or Einkorn over a gluten-free bread containing a laundry list of questionable ingredients.
A person who truly must eat gluten-free (the 1%) must learn to cook from scratch, not just trade out processed food for more processed food. Such a choice doesn’t heal, it causes more problems.
Consuming Gluten the Healthy Way:
Whole grains are healthy. Whole grains provide the body with vitamins E and B as well as many important minerals.
Our family eats whole grains and therefore we consume gluten.
Before turning to real and traditional foods, I experienced, daily, stomach issues (and let’s get personal) bowel issues too. Instead of taking gluten out of my diet, I added good flora to my sick gut. Treating a problem, not just putting a band-aid on it. I started consuming fermented and probiotic foods, consuming healing broth, drinking raw milk, stopped consuming conventional foods with antibiotics, and properly prepared grains.
What’s this properly preparing grains talk?
Phosphorous in the bran of whole grains is tied up in a substance called phytic acid. Phytic acid combines with iron, calcium, magnesium, copper, and zinc in the intestinal tract, blocking absorption. Whole grains also contain enzyme inhibitors that can interfere with digestion. Traditional societies usually soak or ferment their grains before eating them, processes that neutralize phytates and enzyme inhibitors, and, in effect, predigest grains so all the nutrients are available. Sprouting, overnight soaking, and old-fashioned sour leavening can accomplish this important predigestion process in our own kitchens. Many people who are allergic to grains will tolerate them well when prepared according to these procedures. Nourishing Traditions
I try to soak most of the grains (flour) used for baking (muffins, waffles, pancakes, breads). There are times this isn’t possible. For such times, I keep a small stash of sprouted flour or Einkorn flour on hand. I also purchase my wheat through a small company I trust, wheat that is organic and GMO-free.
I also love experimenting with many gluten-free flours (almond and coconut flour are the two I use). We don’t consume a lot of these gluten alternatives, however, we often enough a treat like Almond Flour Banana Bread for breakfast.
I no longer have the stomach and bowel issues I once had. Today, I have a happy gut and a happy tummy, nourished with properly prepared whole grains, part of a diet rich in real and traditional foods.
I believe gluten (found in organic whole grains) is a friend, to most people, when prepared properly and fed to a body and gut that are happy and properly functioning.
Bring on the sourdough and butter.