Sunday, April 5, 2015

Is Gluten-Free Good For Me?

What is Gluten-Free? Who should be on a Gluten-free diet? Is it a Trend or a growing Problem? 
By Laura Harvey, Registered Holistic Nutritionist
So many labels, websites, and restaurant menus contain the big heading “Gluten-Free” that are catching everyone’s attention and is also raising many questions of who should be going Gluten-Free and Why.
To start let’s understand what Gluten is. Gluten is the protein found in grains, such as wheat, rye, barley, oats, kamut, and spelt that has that elastic texture of dough. You know when you have a piece of bread, break it apart and it has those elastic threads that are really soft? That is the gluten. Gluten helps bread rise, keep it’s shape, and often gives the final product a chewy texture.
There are many people intolerant, allergic, and sensitive to gluten and the symptoms of this could contribute to digestive problems such as bloating, cramps, diarrhea, fatigue, achy joints, and even skin rashes. Other symptoms of Gluten intolerance could be abdominal pain, gas, foul-smelling stools, anemia, depression, muscle cramps, mouth sores, and irritability.
People who are more intolerant will experience these symptoms regularly. The most severe of these symptoms is called Celiac Disease, which can cause serious nutrition problems and damage to the small intestine.
What is Wheat Free?
Wheat is type of grain which is derived from the wheat kernel, a seed that is milled to produce flour. There are 3 parts of the wheat kernel, which are the endosperm, germ, and the bran.
Basically, if a product is “gluten-free” it is also “wheat free”, but products that are wheat free are not necessarily gluten free.
Is this a trend or a growing Problem?
Statistics say that 1 in 133 people are gluten intolerant (celiac disease), and 1 in 5 people would feel better if they eliminated wheat from their diet. According to researchers at the Mayo Clinic, they say for every one person that is diagnosed with celiac disease there are as many as 30 people who have it but have yet to be diagnosed. They also say that celiac disease is four times more common than it was in the 1950’s, and not just because doctors are more likely to test for it.
There isn’t a clear answer of why it is on the rise. It may be due to the fact that wheat has now been added to so many processed foods and used as filler. It may also be due to changes in the way modern wheat is grown and processed. The proportion of protein in wheat has increased significantly over the years as well as the quantity of how much it shows up in  everyday meals and products. Most wheat is genetically modified with the use of bleach, pesticides, fertilizers, anti-staling agents, and preservatives which if you think about it, it makes senses that our bodies are rejecting this. 
What kind of alternatives are there?
There are so many gluten-free products on the market today, but my best advice is to pick whole foods, in their whole form to use. This means eliminating processed and refined foods as much as possible which are full of unknown ingredients, including wheat and gluten sometimes.
Some Gluten-Free Grains to Try:
Rice (there are so many varieties of rice so this is an excellent alternative. Some of my favorites are brown jasmine rice, brown basmati rice, wild rice, and regular brown rice). There is also rice flour, rice noodles, rice wraps, and rice pasta.
Amaranth, Buckwheat, Teff, Millet, Quinoa, Oat Groats, and Oats (this has to specify that it is gluten-free.. check the label. Bob’s Red Mill carries gluten-free Oats.
If you are unsure if you may be experiencing some sensitivity to gluten, the easiest way is to eliminate it from your diet completely and see how you feel. It’s amazing how many problems like fatigue, bloating, gas, and diarrhea will clear up once you go gluten-free. The only treatment for gluten intolerance or celiac disease is going on a gluten-free diet.
Foods that may contain Wheat/ Gluten:
Cereals, Breads, Pasta, Crackers, Dressings, Sauces, Soya Sauce, Gravy, Noodles, Dumplings, Soups, Couscous, Doughnuts, Candy Bars, Pancakes, Muffins, Breaded Meat, Pies, Sausages, Hot Dogs, etc. As you can see the list goes on and gluten can be hidden in products that you wouldn’t think would have it. Avoiding gluten is definitely not an easy task. It’s in most processed foods and even some cosmetics!
What about Dairy?
This is a whole new topic to discuss but a huge problem is that dairy intolerance has many similar symptoms, so it’s best to avoid and eliminate both for a while and then re-introduce them separately to know how you feel with each. This is important to consider especially if you have given up gluten but still notice symptoms. 50 percent of Celiacs are also intolerant or allergic to milk, whether it’s the protein in the milk which is the casein and whey, or the sugar called lactose (lactose intolerance).
What do I recommend to clients?
My opinion of who should follow a gluten-free diet is really based on the individual. Everyone’s body’s, lifestyle and needs are very different and I would coach clients to really listen to their body’s and how they feel after consuming gluten. If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned it might be worth considering eliminating gluten for awhile to see how your body functions without it and whether or not it makes a difference. As I said, dairy has similar effects so if you suspect either one I would eliminate both.
For ore information about Fresh Senses, Holistic Nutrition by Laura Harvey, RHN check out the website and visit our Facebook page at

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