Gluten is a substance that can be found naturally in wheat, rye and barley. It is what helps to make dough elastic for bread making. And it can be found in many food products that at first wouldn’t seem to need to include gluten as they have added ingredients like flour for thickening, for example.
People with a severe gluten allergy are suffering from Celiac Disease, an autoimmune condition that affects about 1% of the population. Many people are sensitive to gluten and often avoiding gluten can improve their general health and any autoimmune conditions that they may have.
Going gluten free has received a lot of press in recent years, including a number of articles suggesting that it’s just a fad and that gluten sensitivity is a bit of a myth.
Two years ago I was talking to someone about my underactive thyroid and they, in passing, said that they assumed I was gluten free. Having been hypothyroid for 12 years at that stage, I was surprised to be asked that question. It kicked off a journey towards better nutrition for me, and I now can’t imagine why I hadn’t heard about it before!
From my research and experience I would say that gluten affects different people to a greater or lesser extent. As an example, this is an article by Chris Cresser about gluten intolerance and autoimmune disorders.
Being a Bit Lackadaisical
When I first went gluten free I was a bit lackadaisical about it. Having spent two weeks last summer overdosing on gluten whilst on holiday and then suffering a return of all my thyroid symptoms for the following month, I now have no problems whatsoever being strictly gluten free – even with all the resulting discussions I have to have with friends, restaurants and food providers that make me look really fussy!
I know what a difference avoiding gluten makes to me. And now I’m practised there are so many options for lovely food to eat without resorting to it and many restaurants offer gluten free options now too.
I believe that gut health is vitally important to our bodies and avoiding gluten is one of the ways to ensure we are doing the best we can in that regard.
For those people with Celiac, in extreme cases, eating gluten can be a matter of life or death. And those people can get reactions from just touching items containing gluten, like make up and cosmetics. Eating food that has been prepared where gluten is will cause problems too. Say for example a salad is served with croutons on it, just removing the croutons doesn’t stop there being gluten left behind on the salad.
Processed Gluten Free Foods Are Still Processed Foods
Gluten is in a lot of obvious foods that we eat every day like bread, cereal and pasta and often in processed foods. It’s possibly to buy most things gluten free in the ‘free from’ section of the large supermarkets but that doesn’t mean that we should! To take gluten out often means to need to put something else in. When cooking at home it’s easy to manage that and use gluten free or rice flour or ground almonds but when buying from the shops check the ingredients list for whatever it is. If it looks a bit ‘scary’ then perhaps not such a good purchase!
These are fairly new health concerns affecting a large proportion of the population. Why is it that our grandparents didn’t have these concerns, is a question often asked. And we’ve done more research, found cures to various illnesses and technology has changed and enabled more than ever before. Why do we have more problems relating to food than ever before?
The Food Industry is Not as Our Grandparents Remember
The food industry has developed over the years to feed a growing population and not always in a good way. Farmers are using chemicals, sprays, hormones to grow bigger ‘better’ vegetables, fruit and animals that stay ‘fresh’ longer and that is having a negative effect on the quality of the food available. Add to that the growth of the ‘junk food’ industry (I don’t think that’s ‘their’ name for it!) and a picture starts to emerge.
In part this is being driven by demand, which in turn is being created, along with a growing population needing food at a low price, by a lack of knowledge often encouraged through lack of information and suppressed research, myths and rumours and general ignorance.
Amazing Gluten Free Recipes
I try and work on the premise that if my Grandmother didn’t eat it then maybe we shouldn’t either! I am fairly flexible on this – she wasn’t a fan of curries and we love them! But we do make them from scratch and from grass fed / pastured meat with organic spices. I really recommend Fitter Food for all of their work and particularly for their amazing, tasty recipes.
Eating ‘gluten free’ is becoming more popular but is also being criticised as a fad. I don’t eat gluten partly because of my autoimmune disorder (Hashimoto’s Disease) but also because the more I research gluten and its effects and the more I’m aware of my body and the effect not eating it is having (including the effects I experienced in August after my holiday and gluten-fest!) the more I’m convinced that being gluten free is having a positive effect.
What do you think?