Gluten is found in breads, cereals, pizza, baked goods, many processed foods, and even in cosmetics, hair and skin products. So, what’s the big deal with Gluten? That it gets in the way…
Gluten gets in the way of our digestive system’s proper functioning. This is a big deal because our digestive system does a lot more than breakdown food so we can dispose of it later. Not only is it responsible for the absorption of nutrients and the fueling we need for energy, growth and repair; but it is also an integral part of our immune system, which affects our entire body, including our nervous system.
There is a debate on whether or not humans are capable of digesting gluten.We are certain that at least those diagnosed with Celiac’s disease, an immune reaction to eating gluten, cannot. In people with Celiac’s (and perhaps us all) this “undigested gluten” triggers our immune system as soon as it reaches our small intestine—where 90% of the digestion and absorption of food occurs. The immune response can range from undetected inflammation of organs, to allergies or colds that one may brush off as “normal”, to painful stomach cramps and diarrhea, among others.
A gluten-free diet offers many benefits—seven of them are noted on this post. More generally, a gluten-free diet offers everyone the possibility of a more satisfying life. People that go on gluten-free diets report feeling healthier and stronger than before. It is said that numbers don’t lie and results speak louder than words. So hopefully this post, which contains both, will inspire you to try gluten-free.
Here are 7 reasons why everyone should try gluten-free.
1- To be healthier
For starters, many people heal from illnesses and allergies when they adopt a gluten-free diet. In all humans, gluten causes too much production of the protein zonulin—which modulates the permeability of tight junctions between cells of the wall of the digestive tract. This excess causes the junctions to open too much and allows unwanted things like toxins and gluten fragments to get into the bloodstream, causing various immune responses.
Going gluten free when I was 15 was one of the things I did to treat my chronic Asthma. I noticed its positive effect right away. If you are struggling with an illness, you may find this is a far better option than loading up on medication.
In 2011, the American Journal of Gastroenterology conducted a double-blind study with people who suffered from irritable bowel syndrome and were on a gluten-free diet already. The individuals were given bread and muffins to eat for up to six weeks. Some of them were given gluten-free baked goods; the others were given conventional ones. Those who ate gluten reported they felt significantly worse than before. In other words, they felt better when they were on a Gluten-free diet.
Lastly, food without gluten is easier to digest. This is why some people feel they get hungry faster than when they eat gluten. This is a good thing. Dr. Frank Lipman puts it this way, “If the body is expending less energy to deal with this hard-to-digest protein, it has more energy for other processes. Moreover, the liver, digestive and immune systems are given time to rest and recover, which is why taking gluten out is so important in the process of returning patients to health.”
2- To feel happier
Depression is the number one cognitive complaint in people with Celiac’s disease. Scientists are still researching the connection between gluten and depression, but one accepted theory suggests that the production of antibodies produced when gluten is consumed affects the brain and nervous system, causing inflammation that leads to depression. Studies also show that gluten sensitivity may interfere with the absorption of the amino acid tryptophan, which is needed to stabilize mood, and it’s associated with feelings of well-being and relaxation.
3- To have more energy
Many people report increased energy levels and better sleep habits, indicating they need less sleep than before to function normally. Dr. Lipman says: “Along with sugar and processed foods, I believe there is no greater drain on one’s energy and trigger for inflammation than gluten.” People that go gluten free, report increased levels of energy—even tenfold! There are many reasons that can cause this. From nutrients in foods now being able to be absorbed to higher levels of endorphins, since the brain is no longer under attack by the gluten antibodies.
4- To lose weight and look better
One of the side effects of gluten is bloating. I remember my naturopath telling me to eliminate it and I would see how among other things my post pregnancy belly would go away. Many people lose weight when they go gluten-free, primarily caused by releasing retained water. But watch out. Gluten-free goodies have as many calories and sugar as regular ones. For example, rice flower has a higher glycemic index than wheat flour. So if you’re eating pastries made with rice flour, it alters your blood sugar more aggressively than eating pastries made from wheat flour. This is why I prefer baking with coconut flour instead. Just like you wouldn’t indulge in regular pastries, make sure you don’t go over board with gluten-free ones. They are treats, not veggies.
5- To increase fertility
If you want to increase fertility it is best to not eat gluten. Gluten sensitivity causes zinc deficiency which impacts fertility. For women, zinc is important in balancing the reproductive hormones and a deficiency can lower egg quality. For a man, it can greatly impact the sperm count. It is also needed to make the outer layer and the tail of the sperm. Read more on zinc and fertility here.
6- To have a healthier baby
Since gluten is likely to affect your absorption of nutrients, it makes sense to avoid it during pregnancy. Not only is it important to nourish yourself, but also your baby. During pregnancy you and your baby are both gathering resources from the same source. Making sure you are able to absorb nourishing foods is very important. Additionally, a study published in the medical journal JAMA Psychiatry found that people with gluten antibodies in their blood had a risk of autism that was more than four-and-a-half times greater than the risk in the general population. Moreover, every child with autism in the study had elevated antibodies to gluten from birth. It is believed that these antibodies came from the mother’s elevated antibodies during pregnancy.
7- Because it’s not that hard
There are lots of healthy gluten-free options even at regular grocery stores. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness reports that the gluten-free food market has become a $20 billion industry. Check out gluten-free alternatives like, brown rice or quinoa pasta instead of regular pasta, Basmati rice, brown rice, organic corn or potatoes. Consider snacking on healthier options like cheese, nuts, and fruits. A lot of people like Ezekiel bread because it is sprouted (or its grains soaked) so it’s easier to digest but it is not gluten free. I buy Rudi’s Original Gluten-free bread at home (shown toasted on this post). I also love the three cheese gluten-free pizza by Against the Grain. I just baked it for lunch today along with some healthy coconut flour cupcakes. My kids like them and they are very nutritious.
Here is my original coconut flour cupcakes recipe. Enjoy!
Cupcake Ingredients (makes 4 large cupcakes):
1/2 cup of organic coconut flour (I like Raw Coconut Flour by Coconut Secret)
1/4 teaspoon of aluminum free baking soda
1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of cinnamon
4 organic eggs
1/3 cup of organic coconut oil
1/2 cup of organic agave or raw honey (sometimes I do ¼ agave and ¼ raw honey)
1 tablespoon of vanilla extract
1 ripe banana (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 350° F.
- Combine all the dry in ingredients and blend well.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and use a mixer to blend well.
- Now, if desired, add the ripe banana and blend well.
- Spread organic coconut oil on the cupcake pan before pouring the batter. (Use cupcake liners if desired.)
- Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean.
Until next week!
 Alessio Fasano, Dr. Fasano from Harvard Mass General Hospital and director of pediatric gastroenterology.
 The Better Health Channel’s website (Australia)
 Living Gluten-Free For Dummies by Danna Korn. Wiley Publishing (2010)
 Carroccio, A., Mansueto, P., Iacono, G., et al. (2012) Non-Celiac Wheat Sensitivity Diagnosed by Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Challenge: Exploring a New Clinical Entity. The American Journal of Gastroenterology, 107(12):1898-906
 Dr. Tom O’Bryan #61 Gluten Sensitivity, Celiac’s & Bulletproofing Your Gut, with Dr. Tom O’Bryan
 67% of Gluten Sensitive Patients Have a Zinc Deficiency. www.glutenfreesociety.org