Going Gluten Free – Part 1

Going Gluten Free is definitely a hot topic these days!  Hardly a day goes by that I’m not asked about gluten free diets.  It is nearly impossible to find a health magazine that hasn’t devoted at least a few pages to the topic.

While it would benefit most Americans to decrease their intake of refined grains (and the sugars and unhealthy fats that often accompany them) adopting a gluten free diet can be challenging so it’s a good idea to understand what you will be eliminating and why this might be a benefit for you.

What is Gluten?

“Gluten” is the generic term used to describe the proteins in grains that support plant growth. The term actually comes from the Latin meaning “glue” and it gives elasticity to dough, helps it rise and gives a chewy texture to baked goods.

The Gluten protein complex (gliadin and glutenin) found in a specific family of grass plants which includes wheat, rye and barley has been implicated in many of the digestive disturbances grouped under the heading of “IBS” and can cause severe autoimmune intestinal damage in people with Celiac disease (genetic gluten intolerance).  This is the “gluten” referred to in the popular press in reference to gluten intolerance.  It is possible to be gluten intolerant and NOT have Celiac disease.

While all grains contain proteins, other grains such as corn, rice and quinoa belong to a completely different family of grasses which contain a different protein complex that does not cause a gluten intolerance reaction.  However, it is possible to have a reaction to other grains as a result of either cross contamination with wheat gluten or due to a separate sensitivity to a specific component of that grain.

What are the symptoms of Gluten Intolerance?

Chronic diarrhea, constipation

Abdominal pain, bloating, gas

Anemia

Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, achy joints

Weight loss, weight gain

Infertility, PMS, PCOS

Skin rash

Depression, anxiety, mood swings, brain fog

Headaches, migraines

Please note that these symptoms are also seen with DAIRY INTOLERANCE!  If you are also consuming dairy, you should eliminate the use of milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream first.

If you have eliminated dairy and are still having symptoms, avoid gluten containing grain products for 2-4 weeks and see if the symptoms improve.  If they do, you may have a gluten sensitivity that needs to be addressed.  If resuming the intake of gluten causes a recurrence of symptoms, you should adopt a gluten free diet.

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