Wheat, barley, and rye, oh my! These are the sources that carry the proteins found in gluten. Are you suffering from acute sensitivities to major gluten disorders but aren't sure of the signs? Read on to help become educated and make better choices for your body.
The topic of gluten has been a topic of conversation in many households for years. I have a couple very close friends with gluten intolerances and another who has a severe case of celiac disease. I knew that if I wanted to hang out with them, gluten free eating was what I was in for. I didn't mind doing it for the day while enjoying great conversation and laughs. I did walk away thinking to myself "how do they do it everyday?!" Gluten is in EVERYTHING! From pizza, pasta and baked goods to even chewing gum! In fact, gluten is put into all these foods because it acts like a glue binding everything together. Gluten means "glue" in Latin so you can see why it is found in basically all Western diet foods.
Fast forward to the last few months while I've been taking a six month course on all things wellness. Every diet since the beginning of time has been talked about to prepare us to work with a variety of potential clients. Anyway, we have covered a TON on gluten and the ways it can wreak havoc on many individuals. (Side note: after learning how it's nearly impossible to avoid gluten completely and how much damage it does to my friends, now I really feel badly for them!) I myself have been staying away from excess amounts of gluten. It's been a personal choice for a couple of years now but it truly is difficult.
There are three main types of people who should steer clear of gluten: people suffering from celiac disease (I don't think it's very hard for them to be on constant guard of gluten because if they have it, they could end up in the hospital), people who have gluten sensitivity and also others who have a wheat allergy. Many people can fall into the other two categories but might not realize it. I'm here to help explain what some signs and symptoms can look like.
Inside our small intestine we all have these tiny hairs called villi. Those tiny hairs help to absorb vitamins and minerals. Those vitamins and minerals help get us through the day and keep us active. Now, someone who has celiac disease doesn't have flowing little hairs anymore because they are flattened. So, no flowing hair = no absorption of essential vitamins. This eventually can cause anemia, stomach pains, gastrointestinal complications, weight loss, dental and bone disorders, mouth rash and so on. By being extremely vigilant with a gluten free diet, those little hairs can start to reverse the damage. I have come to realize that the 1% of the population that is suffering from celiac disease are warriors. It's an absolute battlefield out there for them. Did you know that some tea bags are sealed shut with gluten? Me either!
Gluten sensitivity effects more of the population and it seems to be on the rise. People with this sensitivity do not do that same damage to their villi nor do they develop the antibodies that celiac people do. This sensitivity for the most part is determined through an elimination diet. An elimination diet is removing one or more trigger foods for up to three weeks to see if the symptoms subside. Then slowly you can add one food back into the diet and see how your body reacts. Some common symptoms people suffering from a gluten sensitivity are joint pain, headache, diarrhea, abdominal pain, eczema, and fatigue. That is a lot of symptoms so of course you can be suffering from any one of those from other triggers. But if you are experiencing more than one of those symptoms, you may want to consider an elimination diet.
Lastly, we have the wheat allergy. People suffering from a wheat allergy will most likely have symptoms within two hours of ingesting or even inhaling it so clearly there is a spectrum. Some people with an allergy can still have small amounts of wheat while others can't have something if it is made in a manufacturer that makes other products near their packaged food. Many times, children have wheat allergies but can grow out of them. A blood test can get to the bottom of it very quickly. Some common symptoms can be hives, vomiting, rashes, diarrhea, sneezing, swelling of the throat or anaphylaxis. This allergy can be very dangerous for some but more annoying for others.
If you are considering doing an elimination diet try to stay with fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, seeds, lean meats, poultry and fish. If you are still hankering for grains you can have things like quinoa, brown rice, millet, gluten free oats, and buckwheat. Below, I have some great breakfast, lunch, and dinner ideas for you to try!
Egg or tofu omlete with veggies and cheese
Gluten free oats with berries
Quinoa Mexican bowl
Any salad with nuts and seeds
Stuffed portobello mushrooms
Chicken salad in lettuce wraps
Grilled or baked salmon or fish of choice
Vegetable soup with beans
Roasted chicken with steamed vegetables and potatoes
Lentil pasta with pesto and roasted vegetables
These are just a few of an endless amount of meal ideas. Many of these dishes require a little extra work and in this fast pace society can be irritating. If, however, you cook with intention to feed your one and only body good nutrients you will quickly see that the good far outweighs the bad. You will have so much energy from all the nutrient dense foods you've had that washing a few more dishes will seem like nothing at all. Have fun experimenting!