If you haven’t heard of gluten by now, you have definitely been living under a rock. In Siberia. So what is gluten, why is it so bad, and why do people need to be free of it? I hate the term gluten-free. It sounds like you’re being held hostage by gluten. Why can’t we be gluten-less instead of gluten-free? On the other hand, anyone who has a real problem with gluten probably does feel as if they’re being held hostage because the symptoms are very uncomfortable and can be extremely serious, even life threatening for some.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and spelt, and the hard thing is, these grains are found in almost everything with carbohydrate in it. Although spelt not so much. Even if you try to use grains that don’t sound like these ingredients, you will find yourself eating gluten. Examples are couscous, tabbouli (bulgar), and triticale- these, which are all wheat products. Oats are supposed to be gluten-free but there can be cross-contamination in the facility where they are processed. Confusion. So you need to read labels carefully.
Why is gluten “bad”?
Well there is a condition called celiac disease and the simplest way to explain it is 2 different proteins make up gluten and can be identified by your immune system as invaders. This triggers an immune response that involves the digestive tract and can cause irreversible damage to your intestines over time. The symptoms of celiac disease are pretty severe and there are definitive tests to determine if you have it. The other condition that prompts people to go gluten-free is called non-celiac gluten sensitivity. This condition is much more vague and subjective but seems to be very real nonetheless. There is no real test for this, the best way to see if you might have it is to eat a gluten-free diet for at least 4 weeks and see how you feel. I did this about a year and a half ago and I did notice a difference but I would say it took about 3 months. My family says it’s all in my head but I have suffered from IBS my whole life and I do feel getting gluten out of my diet helped. The problem is, when I’m home in CA, raising our daughter and eating simply, I do fine eating gluten-free but when I go to Kauai, I can’t wait to try all the newest items at Living Foods and that includes pizzas, sandwiches, pasta, etc., all full of gluten! Fortunately we have a whole gluten-free section in the store filled with all kinds of gluten-free options. We’re even working on a gluten-free pizza crust but my absolute favorite gluten-free items are the crepes in the cafe. They are such a treat and they totally satisfy my craving for an ooey-gooey carbo bomb, especially the ham and melted cheese crepe.
The last thing I’ll say about a gluten-free diet is that it doesn’t mean you will lose weight. As a matter of fact, many people gain weight on gluten-free because, for some reason, they think that as long as a food is gluten-free, they can have as much as they want. The only way to lose weight is to expend more calories through activity than you consume. End of story. The other reason people gain weight is due to the fact that when you remove the grain that has gluten in it, it has to be replaced with something and frequently it is replaced with sugar, highly processed rice, potato, or corn flour, and fat. And because these flours are highly processed, they contain less fiber. So in going gluten-free, be sure to read labels to watch for the amount of fat grams, simple carbs, and calories if weight loss is your goal.
For more info on gluten, here are a few articles with easy to understand explanations and interesting information:
This last link is to a website that promises to list national food establishments/restaurants with gluten-free options but they are still working on it so check back!