What Does Gluten-Free Mean?

The world is all a buzz with the term gluten free, but what does this really mean? Gluten is a protein, the word coming from the Latin for glue; you could say it’s the glue that holds together dough.  Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley, spelt, triticale (a wheat hybrid), and kamut (a type of wheat grain found in the middle east).  Approximately one percent of the population is allergic to gluten, known as celiac disease.  For these unlucky few, gluten can be life-threatening as it damages the lining of the small intestine, preventing the absorption of nutrients.  It can lead to multiple health problems including nausea, constipation, chronic diarrhea, abdominal cramping, intestinal bleeding, and even some cancers.  Although a true gluten allergy is rare, many people are gluten sensitive.  

Sensitivity to gluten causes inflammation and chronic inflammation is the basis for numerous diseases. According to Dr. David Perlmutter, human beings have genetically found it challenging to process gluten.  In fact, as a neurologist, he feels that this chronic inflammation that many people are susceptible to, directly contributes toward the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Apparently, this isn’t the only brain disease affected by inflammation.  “Some researchers have been looking at an unlikely suspect in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia – wheat” reported Dr. Mercola.  It’s been noted that many schizophrenics have a history of celiac disease.

Are You Gluten Sensitive?

The symptoms for gluten sensitivity are the same as those in celiac’s disease but may also include bloating, skin rashes, brain fog or confusion, and joint pain.  If you think you may be gluten sensitive, it’s best to cut gluten out of your diet for at least sixty days and monitor your symptoms. If desired, add back one gluten product at a time and note any difference. Gluten free foods include corn (choose non-GMO), rice, soy (choose non-GMO), potato, and almond flour.  Although it’s easier today than ever before to go gluten free, gluten tends to hide in many products.  Read labels carefully as hidden sources of gluten are often found in condiments, sauces (gluten is used as a thickener in soy, BBQ, tomato & pasta sauce), soups, sultan, processed meats, any barley and malt foods, and certain kinds of candy.

It is believed that gluten free diets are not just a trend.  In fact, since they play a beneficial role in alleviating the symptoms of many diseases, it would be nice to see gluten free as standard on all hospital diets.

References: David Perlmutter, M.D., author of Grain Brain and Brain Change; Dr. Joseph Mercola.