The more medical science learns, the more it changes the way we eat. Even five years ago, gluten-free wasn’t something often mentioned, and you certainly couldn’t walk into a restaurant and ask for their gluten-free menu.
During my experiment eating gluten free for three months, I learned plenty about asking for what you need at restaurants. Isn’t it nice they want to accommodate us?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye (and apparently, oats, learned something today). According to this article about gluten intolerance, the names of the proteins are glaidin (wheat), hordein (barley), secalin (rye), and avenin (oats) but they are referred to in wholesale as gluten. Why? To make it clear they will affect people with coeliac (celiac) disease.
When I went to the naturopathic doctor and bemoaned my struggle to lose weight, she mentioned that a number of her patients changed only one thing in their diet and lost weight. That one thing was to avoid gluten as if they were allergic to it (which is a generalization of celiac disease).
Of course, she has been on a gluten-free diet for more than five years and often eats dairy free, as well. When I told her about my aversion to cutting any single food group from my diet, she made a convincing argument against gluten.
The biggest issue with gluten is that it causes cellular inflammation.
Inflammation is part of the body’s defense against disease and injury. In fact, without it, the body wouldn’t heal as well.
However, sometimes the body reacts to its own cells as if they are harmful pathogens that need to be eradicated. This can contribute to many chronic diseases, one of which is obesity.
Because wheat crops have been modified so extensively to increase production and yield, their proteins often cause inflammation in the body, especially in relation to gut health.
If our digestive system stops working correctly, our entire body suffers. Suddenly, we can’t get the nutrients needed to perform cell respiration. With millions of cells in our body, this is bad news.
Of course, health issues or a general feeling of malaise will follow.
The biggest caveat my naturopathic doctor added to this is that sugar and gluten together are a time bomb. She notices it every time she eats the combination, whereas a bit of sourdough bread drizzled with olive oil bothers her not a whit.
I did two separate stints with the gluten-free diet. The first one lasted for three weeks, and I also abstained from dairy during this period.
I did not notice a huge reduction in the feeling of bloating. I didn’t experience a surge in energy, but I did lose a couple pounds and didn’t change anything except for cutting out those two (hefty) food groups.
I learned going gluten free is NOT an easy thing. There is gluten in so many products that don’t need it and would seem to be “safe to eat.” Most of the canned soups I like contained gluten (apparently, the broth was thickened with flour while I use corn starch for that purpose in my kitchen). Needless to say, there was a ton of cooking from scratch and not much eating out.
Because of this, it seemed like a major stretch to say the downward nudge on the scale was due to the lack of gluten and dairy. It could have been because I was eating healthier foods that were closer to their natural state since those were things I could insure contained no gluten or dairy.
The second time, I went gluten free for three months. During that trial period, I lost eight pounds, but I was also doing a Beachbody eating program. I’m unwilling to credit that weight loss solely to the absence of gluten.
Did I feel better? Sure. And I noticed that things like hot flashes and pelvic floor muscle issues didn’t bother me while I was gluten free.
Still, the cookies were calling. I monitor my gluten intake now, but I hadn’t been eating a ton of wheat products before I experimented with my diet this way. So the conclusion I reached: if you weren’t experiencing inflammation and sensitivity to gluten, there wasn’t a benefit to removing it completely from your diet.
Next week, I’ll talk about how I finally got the stubborn middle-aged bulge to move. It might surprise you that it was using was some people consider a diet fad.
What foods are you shocked to realize contain gluten? Do you think cutting out a food group is a healthy thing?