Gluten intolerance is so common these days, it has become one of the greatest ingredients to avoid, surpassing even white sugar when it comes to a healthy lifestyle. Wheat, rye, barley and spelt all contain a protein called gluten and even though it makes bread, baked goods and pasta taste so good, it is very difficult to digest.
Extreme sensitivity to gluten can lead to Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system responds to gluten by damaging the small intestine. Symptoms include diarrhea, cramping, bloating, abdominal pain and can lead to chronic symptoms like weight loss, irritability, depression and skin problems like eczema or dermatitis. Other symptoms are more subtle like weakness or fatigue and a general lack of well-being. Some people experience unexplained pain in the muscles or joints.
Gluten intolerance affects 1 in 7 people. Why does it present such a problem for so many? Simply stated, as humans, we are not build to digest it. When wheat was first cultivated, almost 10,000 years ago, it was new to the food chain for humans and we find some people tolerate it well while others do not.
Gluten is found in everything – bread, oats (look for steel-cut oats to avoid gluten), bulgur, rye, triticale (a cross between wheat and rye), veggie burgers, wheat germ, graham flour, semolina, spelt, couscous, kamut, matzo, salad dressings, and many processed foods. There are plenty of foods that are gluten-free. They include fruits, vegetables, eggs, dairy products, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, potatoes, corn, rice, and protein sources like turkey, chicken, fish, tuna, salmon.
Other foods and grains that are gluten-free inlcude Buckwheat, Millet, Quinoa, Rice, Soy, Tapioca, Amaranth and Arrowroot. Health Food stores and many grocery stores carry gluten-free pastas, breads, cereals, flours, baked goods and more making it easier to avoid gluten. Keep in mind, gluten is often a hidden ingredient in soy sauce, chicken broth, salad dressing, malt vinegar, malt and many common seasonings.
It is important to add supplements to your regimen when you are avoiding gluten because you will not always get enough fiber, iron or B-vitamins. Here are some supplements to consider:
1. Multi-Vitamin -make sure it is gluten-free because some manufacturer’s add gluten as a binder.
2. Digestive Enzymes – plant enzymes support complete digestion of protein, fats and carbohydrates and should be taken before a meal.
3. Omega 3′s – are essential fatty acids which will help reduce inflammation and make sure you are getting enough good fats.
4. Probiotics – Many people dealing with Celiac disease can become deficient in probiotics because of damage done to the intestine from gluten. A good quality probiotic supplement can help deliver good bacteria to the intestine.
5. Calcium and Magnesium – helps lower blood pressure as well as supports the bones.
6. Vitamin D3 - the sunshine vitamin builds the immune system keeping it strong to help prevent illness.
Explore a gluten-free lifestyle and see if you notice a difference in how you feel when you eliminate wheat products. You can still enjoy some of your favorite foods like breads, cereals and pasta as long as they are made from rice instead of wheat. Changing your diet will help you feel better without the bloat and in control of your eating habits. We really are ‘ancient bodies’ living in a modern world and some of us are just not built to digest wheat.