The Gluten Myth – What is Gluten and Why is Everyone Avoiding It?

Have you ever wondered what this whole gluten free craze is all about or why everyone seems to be trying to avoid it? Well here's the scoop on the devil called gluten.

Gluten is just a protein inside the seeds of wheat and many of the other commonly eaten cereal grains such as barley, rye, triticale, and spelt. Protein's good for you, right?

The National Health Institute estimates that gluten allergies affect almost one percent of Americans (1), and this number is likely underestimated because this allergy often goes undiagnosed. A severe gluten allergy is called celiac disease. This means that the sufferer will have serious digestive damage from eating foods containing gluten - even a small amount of gluten will send you running to the bathroom in three seconds flat!

But you can be allergic to wheat and not have celiac disease as well. In fact, gluten sensitivity may occur in as many as 1 in 20 Americans. (2) The extent of sensitivity to gluten is debatable since each person’s reaction may be different and the range of symptoms associated with gluten intolerance is so broad that many people, including doctors, don’t suspect gluten may be the cause (3). Even if your body isn’t intolerant to wheat and gluten, removing them from the diet is recommended for optimal body composition, digestion, and health.

Gluten can cause inflammation that is damaging to the immune system and the gut. Gluten issues have been linked to schizophrenia, epilepsy, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. (4) Although many people are skeptical about wheat sensitivity, it has been proven to be real in gold-standard trials (double-blind, placebo-controlled). (5)

Some grains that don’t contain gluten, such as corn, oats and rice, contain proteins that are similar enough in structure to gluten that they may have similar adverse health effects.

You may think you can be tested for gluten but the current tests are far from accurate. (6) The only way to really know for sure whether you’re sensitive to it or not is to take it out of your diet for 30 days, see if you feel and look better after. Then (if you want) reintroduce it and see how you feel after.

In addition to omitting grains from your diet (especially those listed above), it’s important to avoid processed foods, which likely contain trace amounts of gluten in forms like hydrolyzed proteins, starch/modified starch, malt, binders, dressings, sauces and natural flavorings (see for a complete list of foods that contain gluten, as well as often surprising and hidden sources of gluten.)

The gluten myth is that if a food says “gluten free” it must be healthy. Gluten free cupcakes and even cereal have no nutritional value. In fact, they are really just overpriced junk food! We purchased Betty Crocker gluten free cupcakes for our daughter’s birthday and they cost more than twice as much as the regular cupcake mix. When I looked at the ingredients, the first 2 ingredients were rice flour and sugar. Both were most likely GMO and both are extremely cheap ingredients - no reason to charge double other than to take advantage of people that think it’s healthier because it’s gluten free.

There are healthier options. If you plan on baking, try using gluten free flour such as almond, coconut or arrowroot flour. If you prefer mixes, pick up a Namaste pizza crust, muffin mix or all-purpose flour.

Here's a great 2-minute gluten free cake recipe.

QUESTIONS: Have you tried to go gluten free? Did you notice a difference?

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