I have been avoiding writing about this topic for a while now because I love bread, pizza, pasta, cookies, cake, brownies, and donuts… Well you get the picture I love FOOD! I especially love carbs and a lot of complex carbs are filled with wheat that contains gluten. What is gluten, I have found that a lot of people don’t know exactly what it is. Their perception of a gluten-free lifestyle is that it is either the latest health food fad created by hipsters with man buns and beards or the answer to better health, maybe even weight loss.  For many people with autoimmune diseases a gluten free lifestyle is the key to better health and fewer flares. So what is gluten and why is it so bad for you?

Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (wheatberries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, farro, graham, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye, barley and triticale – a cross between wheat and rye. Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as glue that holds food together. Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected.

So why is it so bad for people with autoimmune diseases? We already know about Celiac’s disease where the body mounts an immune response that attacks the small intestine, when gluten is consumed. These attacks lead to damage on the villi, small fingerlike projections that line the small intestine, that promote nutrient absorption. When the villi get damaged, nutrients cannot be absorbed properly into the body.  Ok so what about the rest of us? I was actually tested for gluten sensitivity by a homeopathic medical doctor and it was the second worst news I have ever gotten from a doctor. Ok maybe I’m being a little dramatic but I can tell you before the results came in I ate bread, pasta, and pizza like I was fattening myself up for a sacrifice. I didn’t quite understand how the disease was affected by gluten until my doctor explained it to me. Basically when you ingest it is not properly absorbed, it releases antibodies that cause an inflammatory response, which often leads to flares. So here are some bullet points to better explain it to you.

  • Gluten – gluten directly impacts the intestinal lining through zonulin production. Zonulin is a protein that directly causes leaky gut.
  • Antibodies – Gluten contributes to the formation antibodies. Antibodies can cause the secretion of inflammatory chemicals leading to tissue damage. Additionally, through a process called molecular mimicry, antibodies can cross react with the tissues of the body causing autoimmune disease. Lab tests measuring these antibodies are typically not associated with gluten because most doctors are not trained adequately to identify the connection.
  • Medications – Many medications commonly contain gluten leading to a direct effect. However, many chronic health conditions caused by gluten sensitivity are misdiagnosed leading to medicine prescriptions that are not only unnecessary, but can be detrimental to the gastrointestinal tract. Anti-acid medications are a common example. These medications predispose to infection and lead to abnormal bacteria presence in the gut. Over utilization of antibiotics to treat viral infection is another example.
  • Stress – Although not a physical stressor, gluten is a chemical stressor on the body. Chemical stress comes in many forms. One of them is vitamin and mineral deficiency. Loss of key nutrients causes a fundamental breakdown in the body’s ability to modulate the healing and repair process.
  • Bacteria – Gluten ingestion causes detrimental changes in intestinal flora (AKA gut dysbiosis) predisposing to infection. This is one of the reasons why so many yogurt companies are adding beneficial bacteria to their products. Gut dysbiosis is an epidemic in the U.S. If you need a gluten free probiotic go here <<<
  • Cytokines – Gluten induces the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines (chemicals that damage cells).
  • Neurotransmitters – Gluten causes neurochemical changes in the production of neurotransmitters (chemicals that allow the nervous system to communicate). Examples include: serotonin, dopamine, acetylcholine, epinephrine, and histamine. Gluten is also a neurotoxin that has been shown to damage nerve tissue. This is the reason so many with neurological disease (autism, migraine headaches, ADD, bipolar, schizophrenia, neuropathy, epilepsy, etc.) do well on a gluten free diet.
  • Digestive chemicals – Gluten can damage the intestine, the pancreas, the liver, and the gall bladder. All of these organs play a pivotal role in the body’s ability to produce digestive chemicals and enzymes. When this mechanism is compromised, digestive processes start to break down and become ineffective.
    Read more at https://www.glutenfreesociety.org/leaky-gut-syndrome-is-gluten-at-the-root/#G7vbmSdpwJWeuzs0.99

So going gluten free is the first step in helping to heal your body, there are a lot more steps but I think I have wrecked your life enough for one day. Here are some foods to avoid if you are embarking on going gluten free.

Also if you are trying it out to see if you notice any improvement with your health it is recommended that you eliminate gluten for three months. It is also recommended to take a food log and notate how you feel everyday and take that to your nutritionist’s or doctor’s office so that she/he can get a better read of how to diagnose any gut issues you may have.  Here is more information to ruin your day.

Foods where you least expect to find gluten-

  • Artificial coffee creamer
  • Malt (in the form of malt extract, malt syrup, malt flavoring and malt vinegar, which are indicative of barley)
  • Pasta sauces
  • Soy sauce
  • Bouilllion cubes or prepared gravy
  • Frozen french fries
  • Salad dressing
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Seitan and other meat alternatives
  • Frozen veggie burgers
  • Candy
  • Imitation seafood
  • Prepared meats or cold cuts (like hot dogs)
  • Chewing gum
  • Certain ground spices
  • Potato or grain chips
  • Kamut
  • Certain veined cheeses
  • Ketchup and tomato sauces
  • Mustard
  • Mayonnaise
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • Prepared fish sticks
  • Matzo
  • Flavored instant coffee
  • Prepared rice mixes
  • Flavored teas

It’s ok to cry, my heart cries every day when I see a cake or cookie or a pizza that I can’t eat