The phrase “gluten-free” seems to be everywhere these days. There are books, blogs, websites, gluten-free bakeries, menu items, and so on. Gluten-free foods are even being placed on the shelves of chain grocery stores! With all the talk, you may be wondering if living gluten-free could benefit you?
1. Gluten intolerance is linked to over 50 different diseases!
Did you know that depending upon where in your body gluten does it’s damage, it can trigger rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, anxiety, autoimmune diseases, reflux and a variety of nutritional deficiencies such as calcium, which can lead to osteoporosis, migraines and epilepsy. There are over 200 associated conditions and symptoms attributable to gluten sensitivity.
2. Research shows increased risk of death in those with Gluten Intolerances
Gluten Intolerance covers a wide spectrum of disorders. It can range from inflammation to full blown celiac disease. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at 30,000 patients and examined death rates in three groups:
1. Those with celiac disease (intestinal damage shown in biopsy) – 39% increased risk of death
2. Those with positive blood tests but no intestinal damage – 35% increased risk of death
3. Those with inflammation only – 72% increased risk of death
Shockingly, those showing only inflammation died at a much higher rate than the general population, from all causes. Research asserts that this is due to the fact that they never quit eating gluten. For those who are on a gluten-free diet it is crucial that adherence is complete, that damaged tissue is repaired and that nutrient deficiencies are corrected or risk of death due to inflammation is heightened.
3. Only 1 in 9 with gluten sensitivity have digestive symptoms
Though most people think that if they have a gluten sensitivity they will experience digestive distress, this isn’t always the case. Food intolerance can show up in a variety of ways in the body—meaning gluten can affect any part of the body — not just the digestive tract. This wide-ranging affect is partly what makes it so difficult to diagnose.
Any part of the body can be affected through three mechanisms:
• The direct effect of gluten peptides on tissue inside or outside the GI tract.
• Nutrient deficiencies (hundreds of effects depending upon which nutrients are not being absorbed).
• Associated autoimmune responses.
4. Gluten intolerance: 21 million suffer and don’t know it — Are you one?
A whopping 99% of those with gluten caused health conditions go undiagnosed. You can determine whether you have a gluten intolerance by taking a simple Food Allergy Test. These tests range in price but are usually between $275-$350 dollars. If you do not wish to spend the money and are willing to put in a little work you can find out if you are intolerant for free, through something called an Elimination Diet.
An elimination diet is a method of identifying foods that an individual cannot consume without adverse effects. Elimination diets typically involve entirely removing a suspected food from the diet for a period of time from two weeks to two months, and waiting to determine whether symptoms resolve during that time period. The diet relies greatly on trial and error to identify specific allergies and intolerances. Typically, if symptoms resolve after the removal of a food from the diet, then the food is reintroduced to see whether the symptoms reappear.
5. It’s never been easier to go gluten-free
For those of us living in Ottawa, going gluten-free is becoming easier and easier. There are many health food stores within the Ottawa area that offer delicious alternatives to gluten breads, pastries, or so on. Furthermore, plenty of restaurants are now offering gluten-free menu items, and more and more gluten-free cookbooks and blogs are popping up, providing you with thousands of delicious gluten-free meal ideas!
Now that you know WHY you should go gluten free- here are some tips that will make the process much easier…
Tips for Going Gluten Free
Going gluten-free can be confusing at first. Keep it simple until you get your bearings. Focus on whole, naturally gluten-free foods.
• Say yes to fresh produce. If you’re a vegetarian, you’re in luck. You already love veggies of all kinds, so go for it. Do your bunny food thing. And don’t forget fresh seasonal fruit.
• Omnivore? Plain fresh meat, chicken, eggs and fish are all naturally gluten-free (However – watch out for added broths, seasonings and marinades). Choose organic and free-range grass fed bison and beef for Omega 3.
• For starches think potatoes (white, gold, red, blue) and sweet potatoes. All gluten-free.
• Rice is gluten-free. Whole grain brown rice is especially good for touchy digestion.
• Try quinoa for a fun, complete protein “faux grain”. It cooks up quickly- faster than rice- and cozies up to the flavors, herbs and spices you add to it.
• Dairy? Here’s the bad news. Some celiac savvy physicians suspect a whopping fifty percent of celiacs are also intolerant of- or allergic to- the proteins in milk, casein and whey! If dairy is fine for you, cultured plain organic yogurt is gluten-free; however, flavored yogurts could be trouble- especially those with added granola or flavors made with barley.
• Plain, aged block cheeses are generally safe; start with a wedge of good Parmesan and aged cheddar; both are high in calcium and have zero lactose. Fresh goat cheese is delicious; and tangy, and there are many varieties of real cheese that are safe (Again- check labels for additives, fillers or flavorings- these are possible culprits). Despite the popular myth that blue cheese is not safe, most blue cheeses are gluten-free.
• Going to miss your lunch-time sandwich? Do: wraps made with corn, teff or brown rice tortillas, lettuce wraps, rice paper wraps, and even toasted gluten-free waffles!
• There are several gluten-free breads available with a wide variety of quality and taste. Some are better than others, however it is for you to be the judge. Many new offerings are cropping up. And remember toasting makes almost any gluten-free bearable.
Do you have any gluten-free recipes or tips you’d like to share? Comment below.