Demystifying gluten…and your digestion
If you’ve toyed with the idea of giving up gluten or perhaps reduced it for a period of time but not fully made the leap to go completely gluten free, then put down that bagel and listen up as I demystify the world of gluten and potentially your brain and gut health in the long run!
People choose to follow a gluten free diet for many reasons. Some have a diagnosed allergy to gluten – known as coeliac (or celiac) disease, others are intolerant or sensitive to gluten whilst some people don’t have any identifiable markers in their blood yet they say to me after a few weeks of strictly removing it from their menu that they have better energy, skin and digestion. I work with all these gluten sensitive types of people which has led me to write this post for you so you too can self-experiment and try eliminating gluten for a period of 2-3 weeks to see if you notice any health benefits.
FIRSTLY, WHAT IS GLUTEN?
Gluten is a large protein found in most grains, including wheat, rye, barley and spelt which can play havoc with people’s digestive system or lead to other less obvious sub-standard health symptoms like low energy and poor concentration which are often overlooked. If we look at the structure of gluten itself, it is a very large protein, made up of two proteins called gliadin and glutenin which themselves are made up of hundreds of amino acids and together are extremely resilient to digestion. Our digestive system really doesn’t break it down very well at all, so instead of being broken down into single amino acids and di-peptides (the simplest form of proteins) which we need for adequate digestion, what we end up with is larger poly-peptide, longer chains of proteins which can cause your body to go into high alert and overdrive.
Symptoms which may be down to gluten reactivity include:
- Neurological disorders such as aches, pains, poor sleep, mental disorders or behavioral issues
- Skin breakouts including eczema
- Unexplained tummy aches, bloating or IBS
- Foggy brain, poor memory
- Low energy throughout the day (even after a good nights sleep)
- Poor nail, skin and hair health (indicates your body isn’t absorbing and assimilating nutrients properly).
- Auto-immune disorder sufferers, including those with Graves disease, MS, reactive or rheumatoid arthritis, Addison’s disease or type 1 diabetes
I would strongly consider trialing a 100% gluten free stretch and monitoring your symptoms to give your nervous system, your digestion and your immune system a holiday, especially if you tick a lot of the above boxes. Healing the system depends on what is causing the inflammation and this will be different for each person. Alcohol and caffeine are two very common ‘liver loaders’, as are chemicals on food and food additives, as well as processed sugars and trans fats but gluten is the one that most people don’t trial avoiding since it’s hidden in so many of our foods so we unknowingly consume it a lot more than we might imagine.
By steering clear of gluten for up to four weeks, it could lead to one of three outcomes:
- Lifelong health niggles or chronic issues may disappear or considerably improve
- You may discover better health i.e. zippy energy, clearer skin, better brain power
- It may encourage you to be more experimental in the kitchen and try different flavour combinations you might not have tried before, ultimately increasing the variety of nutrients you give your body. Win win.
There are a lot of specially created ‘gluten free’ products on our supermarket shelves today which whilst ticking the gluten free box, unfortunately are heavily processed and often bare little resemblance to the food from which it was originally made. Most of the nutrients that may have been in the original food are often stripped away and destroyed in the processing to give the food a longer shelf live or to make the manufacturing process more efficient and profitable. So when following a gluten free diet it is always best to choose foods that are naturally gluten free, that have had minimal, if any processing so it is altered as little as possible from how it appears in nature. When it comes to food, nature gets it right while humans can get it oh so wrong.
Naturally gluten free alternatives include quinoa, rice, buckwheat, corn, amaranth, millet, nuts and seeds and you can read about how to use them in your day to day cooking here. Here are some handy lists for you to prop up your gluten radar…..
GLUTEN CONTAINING INGREDIENTS
GLUTEN CONTAINING FOODS
If you do trial going glute free of have experiences of being gluten free then please feel free to share them with everyone below to.
Yours in gluten free health,