I have been reading a fantastic book called ‘Primal Body, Primal Mind’ by Nora Gedgaudas (I will leave that pronunciation up to you!).
It is about gaining optimal health by eating well and avoiding the so-called ‘food’ that our food companies have created for us. Food that isn’t really food anymore. We don’t know how it was made, what is in it or the damage it is doing to our bodies (even though the food companies know the mountains of facts proving their ‘food’ is causing us major health problems). Don’t get me started – it makes me mad.
So, our option is to take back the control and go back to the basics…eat primal!
When I started going gluten-free I was overwhelmed with all the information out there. The many do’s and don’ts, which can sometimes be conflicting – do eat rice, don’t eat rice – do eat buckwheat, don’t eat buckwheat….it was doing my head in!
After tons of reading, loads of questions and through my own experiences I decided to share what I have learned. I am by no means a doctor or health advisor – I am just sharing my learnings with you. Nora’s book has really helped me to clear my understandings of gluten and it is actually not all that complicated. More and more friends are asking me how to go gluten-free and what it involves – hopefully this helps!
I am going to have to break this information up into parts as there is quite a bit and I don’t want to miss out on any important details. This post will be Part 1 where I will go into what gluten actually is. Then the following posts will go into diagnosis, healing, cross-reactivity with other foods (you will hear doctors say “don’t eat gluten…OR dairy”) and anything else that I can think of to share.
Stay tuned and please comment with your thoughts or gluten stories.
Part 1: What is Gluten Exactly?
Firstly, the word Gluten is derived from the Latin word glue. This in itself should not sit right with you. Gluten was actually used to stick wallpaper onto walls! It is the stuff that makes food stick together, be soft and fluffy, and sometimes cause us to be addicted to the stuff.
Gluten has absolutely no benefit to our bodies. There is nothing in gluten that we need. No nutrients, vitamins or minerals we require from gluten. If we eliminate it from our diet, there is nothing we miss out on.
Some people get very confused between Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance or sensitivity. We tend to think that one is worse than the other but this is not true. To quote from Nora’s book, ‘All celiac disease is a form of gluten sensitivity but not all gluten sensitivity is celiac disease.’ They just have different genetic markers. They are both equal in danger to our health.
Gluten is found in the following grains:
- wheat – durum, graham, semolina, spelt, kamut, etc
- some oats (although I would steer clear of this supposedly “gluten-free” food as gluten is typically present from the modern methods they use to process oats, which contaminates it with gluten)
Although other grains such as corn, millet, quinoa, rice, buckwheat and soy do not technically contain gluten, gluten contamination in many of these foods are extremely common. I do eat quinoa…but only very small amounts, and I tune into my body to see if I react (which I do…very badly with gluten).
Gluten is everywhere , and unless a product is clearly labelled ‘GLUTEN-FREE’, I wouldn’t eat it. Gluten can be labelled as other things such as food emulsifiers, artificial food colouring, vegetable (or hydrolysed) protein, modified food starch, dextrin…and so on. So you really have to read your labels if they don’t clearly state ‘Gluten Free’.
So what damage does it do to our bodies? Gluten flattens the very important villi which is the lining of your small intestine (it looks like shag carpet). This villi is responsible for absorbing all your nutrients and so on. Gluten will actually turn this healthy, shag carpet villi into a completely destroyed flat zone where you are unable to absorb the “good stuff” from your foods.
If you are not absorbing the things your body absolutely needs for you to survive, you fall into many health problems. Gluten definitely does not just affect the digestive system. ‘Gluten sensitivity can be primarily and at times exclusively a neurological disease, affecting not only the brain and nervous system directly, but also cognitive and psychiatric illness.’ (Hadjivassiliou)It affects the brain – when you consume gluten, it shuts off the blood flow to the frontal and prefrontal cortex which is responsible for short-term memory, focus, managing of emotions, planning and organisational skills.
Eating gluten has proven to cause ADD/ADHD, depression, heart problems, chronic inflammatory conditions, immune system, diabetes, musculoskeletal system, nervous system, moods, eczema, joint pain, and kidney issues. Gluten is the root cause of many health issues (and deaths).
‘Celiac Disease is one of the most common lifelong disorders in both Europe and the US.’ (A. Fasano)
In Nora’s book, she shares that The New England Journal of Medicine discovered that 55 diseases are KNOWN to be caused by gluten. Among these are heart disease, cancer, nearly all autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, gall bladder disease, Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune thyroid disorder), epilepsy, migraines, Parkinson’s disease, lateral sclerosis, autism (which is technically an autoimmune brain disorder), anxiety issues, bipolar disorder, dementia, and schizophrenia.
I hate to be a downer, but gluten can kill you.
Hmmm…another piece of pizza?
My next post will be all about ‘Diagnosis’ (or lack of!), but be warned….did you know that only 1% (yes, I did correctly type the measly number of only 1%) of people with celiac disease are properly diagnosed…..1 percent…