Why Gluten Is Causing Us Health Problems
Gluten is the big bad word on everyone’s lips these days and this is because ‘Gluten’ unfortunately causes many people health problems. In this article I give you the low-down on Why Gluten Is Causing Us Health Problems and I also teach you how relatively simple it is to replace Gluten in your daily diet with healthy alternatives, allowing you to have all your favourite pastas, pizzas and baked goods.
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein composite found in wheat and its relatives which include spelt, kamut, rye and barley. Gluten is what make those fresh bread rolls so chewy and delicious, as it adds elasticity to the dough and helps it to bind, rise and keep its shape. This is why Gluten-Free products tend to be heavier and denser in texture.
Gluten is present in so many different foods other that the obvious ones like, bread, pasta, cakes, biscuits and pizza. Western society is being overloaded with Gluten!
Conventional oats are often processed on machinery that wheat is processed on and therefore is often contaminated with gluten and therefore problematic for those with Gluten Sensitivities, but especially those suffering from a Wheat Allergy, or from Ceoliac Disease.
Gluten & Disease
Many people these days have trouble digesting gluten and this leads to a range of digestive and other health issues. For some people it can cause a severe auto-immune response in their body.
Ceoliac Disease & Gluten
Ceoliac Disease is a serious autoimmune illness where the body cannot process gluten protein.
Gluten severely damages the intestines and this can cause bacteria, toxins and undigested food proteins to leak into the Gastrointestinal Tract and into the blood stream, which studies have shown lead to the onset of more serious autoimmune diseases. Here is more information on Coeliac Disease from Coeliac Australia. It is believed that 1 in 100 people have Coeliac Disease in Australia, but 75% of these people have not yet been officially diagnosed.
Wheat Allergy Not Always Gluten Related
A Wheat Allergy is not necessarily an allergy to the gluten protein, it could be all allergic reaction to one or more of the other various other proteins found in wheat.
The signs of a Wheat Allergy tend to be more along the lines of common allergic reactions such as; hives, rashes, itchy eyes, swelling, breathing difficulties, nasal congestion, stomach pain, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and bloating, inability to focus and allergic people may respond with Anaphalaxis which is life threatening and needs immediate emergency medical treatment using Epinephrine (adrenaline). Wheat Allergy is more common in babies and toddlers, rather than in adults. Thankfully as children get older the majority will generally grow out of their allergy to wheat.
It is extremely important to get medically tested for Ceoliac Disease and for a Wheat Allergy if you find you are having any of the following problems when you eat wheat products or any of it’s relatives: digestive issues such as; bloating, pain, diarrhea, abdominal pain & discomfort, constipation, excessive gas and also unrelated symptoms that do not affect the intestines directly such as muscular, bone and joint pain and of course any of the allergic symptoms mentioned above. Remember symptoms may happen quickly after eating wheat/gluten, or it can take hours or days.
Non-Ceoliac Gluten Sensitivity
If all tests come back clear of Ceoliac Disease and you don’t have a wheat allergy you may have what is know as Non-Ceoliac Gluten Sensitivity.
This sensitivity as opposed to being a serious autoimmune response that Ceoliac sufferers have, is considered an ‘innate’ immune response by the body to gluten.
Symptoms of Non-Ceoliac Gluten Sensitivity are generally the same as those of Ceoliac Sufferers but there tends to be some extra symptoms that a Non-Ceoliac Gluten Sensitive person can suffer, such as; headache, “foggy brain”, joint numbness and pain in the fingers, arms and legs.
These symptoms can occur anywhere from a few hours until a few days after consuming a food containing gluten, which as with Ceoliac Disease and Wheat Allergy, often makes it very hard to determine gluten as the cause of the symptoms.
The major difference between Ceoliac Disease and Non-Ceoliac Gluten Sensitivity is that Ceoliac Disease does serious intestinal damage, whereas Non-Ceoliac Disease generally does little or milder intestinal damage and is more easily rectified by removing all gluten from ones diet.
The jury is still out, medically speaking, as to whether Gluten Sensitivity and eating some gluten can lead to other auto-immune diseases e.g. cancers and even mental disorders -this article sheds slightly more light on the risks Gluten Sensitivity Health Risks.
People suffering from Coeliac Disease and those with Wheat Allergies MUST stay away from even tiny trace amounts of gluten and wheat, as even these minute amounts can cause a severe reaction and even life-threatening reaction.
In a nut shell Gluten for many of us is just not great, so we need to be assessed and diagnosed if we are showing gut symptoms and then learn how to adapt our lifestyle and diet to one that’s Gluten-Free.
Step 1. In you suspect any problems at all with Gluten and Wheat see a medical doctor and ask to be tested.
Step 2. If your test for Ceoliac Disease and Wheat Allergy is negative, you still need to address the fact that you may have Non-Ceoliac Gluten Sensitivity and the best way to do this would be to see a Dietitian or Naturopath and to eliminate ALL wheat and gluten from your diet for a few weeks and see if you feel better. Then together your Dietician or Naturopath will do food challenges and make you keep a food diary, in order for you to be able to track what you ate and how long after symptoms appeared and what they were.
Step 3. If you do seem to be Gluten Sensitive you have to make the choice to change your diet or suffer the unpleasant symptoms and possible health complications that may result down the track.
Here is a list of foods that often contain Gluten:
- cereals and breakfast bars, oats.
- snack food e.g. flavoured chips, candy, ice-cream confectionery.
- condiments e.g. tomato sauce, soya sauce.
- cous cous, ready made meals.
- MSG, hydrolyzed vegetable protein.
- modified & gelatanized.
- food starch.
- instant milk, malted milk.
- vegetable gums
Basically any food that is not fresh food e.g. fresh fruit, vegetables, rice, meat, dairy, eggs etc.. must be examined closely and ALL ingredients must be read thoroughly. Often a processed, per-pacakged food will say if it contains gluten or wheat, or whether it has been processed on machinery that may be contaminated with wheat.
How To Replace Gluten In Our Diets
If you find out from a medical tests and food intolerance testing that you can’t include wheat or gluten in your diet, it is not the end of the world.
At first you will feel like you have to give up all your favourite food and be on an ever vigilant watch every-time you buy food, or eat out and while yes the second part is true, if you have Ceoliac Disease or a Wheat Allergy, you can however still enjoy gluten-free variants of all your favourite foods.
For those with Non-Ceoliac Gluten Sensitivity if you eat gluten you may react but it won’t be immediately life-threatening, but even if your reaction is only mild, you still need to weigh up the pro’s and con’s, as outlined above.
Going Gluten Free is easier these days than it ever has been.
as there is so much awareness of gluten intolerances and gluten sensitivities that food manufacturers all over the world have made gluten-free options of all our favourite foods and this also all includes highly processed, junk food too!
While yes, you can indeed get gluten-free cakes, biscuits, chips, candy, pastas, pizza bases, cereals, muesli bars etc.. , this is not really the ideal, healthy path to take no matter how convenient.
You need to replace all the healthy nutrients and fiber, that along with gluten, are also found in wheat, barley, rye etc. and this means doing your best to find just as healthy, if not even healthier replacements.
Gluten Free Healthy Alternatives
The best thing you can do is to take a step back into the kitchen and learn to make your own breads and baked goods from scratch. This is not as hard, nor as time consuming as it all sounds and once you get familiar with using flour substitutes to wheat flour and swapping over to a healthy ancient grain such as quinoa as a staple instead of pasta, or using some of the few organic gluten free pastas available, you will find you will adapt to the different textures and taste and most importantly you will feel healthier, less bloated and sick and you can’t beat that!
Currently you cannot buy a certified organic Gluten-Free all purpose flour blend or Gluten-Free self-raising flour blend.
I highly recommend organic where possible – read The Dangers Of Pesticides & Fungicides In Our Food. Why Organic Food Really is Healthier.
It really is easy to buy some of the organic flours and mix up your own Gluten-Free flour blends. See Organic Gluten Free Flour Blend Recipes
Be sure to include in your daily Gluten-Free diet, plenty of raw organic vegetables, nuts, seeds, grains and fruit. Meat Eaters should choose organic and free-range meat and fish. Vegetarians and Vegans organic quinoa, tofu & organic free-range eggs.
See this list of healthy Gluten-Free & Wheat Free,Flour Options– all these can be used to bake breads, pizzas, pancakes, muffins, cakes and biscuits with and many can replace pasta as a base to your favourite pasta dishes. Others especially the puffed grains such Buckwheat, Millet, Quinoa etc make a great cereal base with the addition of seeds and nuts.
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