What is gluten? An FAQ for Your Understanding
“Gluten-free” has become a popular buzzword in the wellness industry – so much so that it’s become a label unnecessarily attached to products that don’t naturally contain gluten in the first place! Nowadays, we think a lot of people associate “gluten-free” with healthy, which is not always the case. It’s important to recognize what gluten is, and why now, more than ever, it’s become a common allergen in the standard American diet.
What is gluten?
By definition, gluten is a protein found in some grains, primarily wheat. It acts as a binding agent to help foods maintain their shape. It also acts as a binding agent in the digestive tract, making gluten-containing foods difficult to digest.
Why is gluten more harmful today?
Wheat is one of the most highly subsidized products in the world. Through decades of genetic modification, today’s dwarf wheat has a slightly different genetic makeup than einkorn wheat, the first wheat known to scientists. These subtle differences produce a different chemical reaction in the gut, which can account for today’s epidemic of gluten intolerance that didn’t exist 50 years ago.
How does gluten affect gut health?
Your gut lining contains tight junctions, lined with microvilli, which account for your body’s ability to digest, absorb and assimilate nutrients. Gluten increases gut permeability by loosening these tight junctions, lowering your ability to absorb nutrients from the food you eat. When you experience chronic gut inflammation as a result of eating inflammatory foods (like gluten) on a regular basis, it commonly results in a condition called leaky gut. This means your gut lining is permeable to the point where undigested foods can seep into your bloodstream, warranting an autoimmune response.
What are common symptoms of gluten intolerance?
Gluten intolerance is a spectrum. Its most severe form is Celiac Disease, but even if you don’t have Celiac Disease, (learn more about Celiac Disease) you may experience an allergic reaction to gluten in less obvious ways. Common symptoms include brain fog, low energy, IBS, mood swings, anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue, unexplained weight gain, unexplained weight loss, low libido, cardiovascular issues, malabsorption, and belly bloat.
If your gut health has been compromised by various lifestyle factors, including overuse of antibiotics, eating a highly inflammatory diet, or even being born by C-section, you are more likely to experience gluten intolerance in some form. It is, however, safe to say that most people, gluten intolerant or not, will feel better on a gluten-free diet!
What grains contain gluten?
What grains are gluten-free?
How do you know if you’re gluten intolerant?
If you’re unsure whether or not you should be eating gluten, you can always try an elimination diet to gauge your reaction. Eliminate gluten for one to three months and see how you feel! After one to three months, test it out and notice if you have any of the symptoms mentioned above. Most likely you will notice more energy, improved mental clarity and a decrease in bloating – you may even experience weight loss!