Nutrition

Is Gluten Free Really a Thing?

Gluten has become an almost controversial topic nowadays. Most people think that those who try to eat a gluten-free diet just don’t like it or that they just enjoy giving their servers a hard time when going out to eat. That could certainly be true in some cases, but the majority of skeptics and scoffers just tend to misunderstand what gluten actually is, what it does to our bodies, and how many people it really affects.

One of the resources I have begun to use more and more is a site created by Dr. Josh Axe called Dr. Axe – Food is Medicine. He constantly writes about various nutritional topics such as recipes, supplements, and women’s and men’s health. Among these topics, I found an article all about gluten. Dr. Axe describes the substance as a “sticky protein” that is found in wheat, and goes on to list the couple different levels of gluten sensitivity:  a gluten allergy commonly known as celiac disease, and gluten intolerance.

Celiac disease is when any consumption of gluten results in a significantly weakened digestive system and can lead to malnutrition because the body cannot absorb the nutrients it needs. This disease has become more prevalent throughout the years (especially here in America) because we have heavily relied on the high amounts of wheat gluten in products such as cosmetics and bread instead of valuing the more time consuming yet safer methods people used to use when making food. And I was surprised to find that, because our food is increasingly becoming more processed with gluten, there is now a 1 in 133 likelihood that you have celiac disease, and a 1 in 22 chance that you can contract it if an immediate relative has it.

Maybe you don’t know many people with celiac disease, but what about a gluten intolerance? Dr. Axe found that 1 in 7 people are sensitive to gluten. That means that approximately forty six million people just here in the United States are affected in one way or another, which often results in symptoms such as anxiety, depression, skin rashes, and weight loss. And this sensitivity or allergy may not even be evident until it is triggered by some sort of trauma like childbirth or prolonged or intense emotional stress.

Personally, I have noticed a major difference over the past couple years in what my body accepts and what it does not when it comes to gluten. So I’m trying to be more careful to avoid the popular sources of gluten like bread. But what I didn’t know is that gluten is also found in things like hot dogs, french fries, soy sauce, cold cuts, and flavored teas. As if that weren’t enough, gluten is even in commercial products like lip balms and that glue you have to lick on envelopes.

If you’re unsure whether or not you have an intolerance or allergy to gluten you can always cut gluten out for a while (I would say a few months at least) and slowly start introducing gluten back into your diet. If you start experiencing adverse affects in your body, then I would strongly recommend avoiding all gluten and replacing it with fresher and more nutritious foods. Unfortunately many gluten-free foods aren’t that great for you, like soy and potatoes. But quinoa, nuts, fruits, and vegetables are always healthy substitutions. Here’s a collection of gluten-free recipes from Dr. Axe that I’m sure I’ll be trying out in the future.