Considering Gluten Elimination?

by Paula Porter, CNP, NNCP

Being a Nutritionist, I talk to a LOT of people about the foods that tend to wreak havoc on our awesome bodies.  The issues that typically land someone in my office are related to the digestive system. Unexplained skin issues, gas, bloating, chronic conditions that are flaring, repeating illnesses that keep you away from work or school, you name it.  It is amazing to consider, but 70-80% of your immune system is in your gastrointestinal tract. Most of the symptoms that cause discomfort begin in the gut. When we have an unhealthy balance of good and bad bacteria in the gut, it can lead to permeability of the intestine, or leaky gut.  Just like it sounds, in a leaky gut, substances in the intestines get through the intestinal barrier into the bloodstream. This can be things like molecules of food, or nasty stuff like pathogens. This can cause a whole host of symptoms and lead to disease. A diet of processed food, stress, and foods that trigger an immune response are all a part of the picture.  This is a simplified view of what is happening, but hopefully it will suffice to give a basic picture.

One of the baddest of the bad guys? Gluten.

I am not alone in seeing gluten, as a major culprit of issues in the digestive tract.  Gluten has quickly become vilified in the nutrition world, and for good reason. These grains have not only been sprayed with chemicals (typically glyphosate) to prevent disease prior to harvest, they are also grown to contain a much higher amount of gluten then they did in the past as a result of hybridization.  Our North American gluten containing grains are not the same as they were 100 years ago. I have met many people who find eating a baguette in Paris downright pleasant, but eating a baguette in Canada excruciating. Time and time again, I meet with people who credit gluten elimination with a huge reduction in inflammation and a calming of varying symptoms.   It is one of the things that you can do for your health that can lead to BIG rewards.

Before I go on, what are the gluten containing grains?

Wheat (including wheat varieties like spelt, kamut, farro and durum); bulgur, semolina, barley, rye, triticale; Oats can contain gluten, so you need to look out for gluten free oats.

My experience with gluten elimination:

I never thought I had an issue with gluten.  I decided to cut it out more in solidarity with my nutrition clients, and I wanted to see how difficult it would be.  I woke up about 4 days after eliminating gluten and felt like I had new eyes. Literally. I hadn’t noticed an issue with my eyes until I experienced waking up and feeling so amazingly different.  I felt more awake and clearer eyed, and I didn’t even attribute it to the gluten elimination until about a week later. Now I find when I cheat and have something with gluten, I wake and feel as though my eyes are puffy and tired. In fact, I feel like I was in a boxing match.  Another bonus was that about two weeks after eliminating gluten, I noticed a flattening of my belly. I knew I was onto something. Oh, and by the way, I had the exact same reaction and experience with corn, but we can talk about that another time.

Do I miss it?

Sure.  Sometimes I do miss the bread, especially a crusty bun, I mean, I am human.  I so enjoy the benefits of not including it in my diet, however that I see it all as worth it.  It is a basic step in walking toward an overall healthier way of eating. Seeing breads and pastas as less of a part of a meal leads to making better choices on your plate.

Thinking about eliminating gluten?

I strongly urge you to consider it.  Yes, there are many articles out there calling this a “fad”, but FAR more articles that point out the costs to our health when continuing to consume gluten.  It isn’t a theory. The inflammation caused by gluten (the protein gliadin) is well known, and gluten elimination is a part of the management of symptoms and even possibly recovery from many of the most common chronic diseases.  Try it for a month and see how you feel. This doesn’t mean run to the store on a quest to find the best GF burger bun. This means have the burger without a bun. For one month, just eliminate the bread, pasta and all processed foods that contain wheat for a start.   When we eat a lot of the bready stuff, we eat a LOT of simple carbohydrates (sugar), which could even help to move you to a healthier weight. There are a million gluten free processed foods out there, but focusing instead on a whole food diet that simply cuts out gluten will likely make you feel a whole lot better.  Until you try it, you won’t know how good you can feel.