The Gluten Conundrum
It seems that more and more people are becoming sensitive or intolerant to gluten. Why is that? Although there may be a number of complex scientific explanations, the main reason is simple. We eat heaps and heaps of gluten containing products on a day-to-day basis. We are overloading our digestion with gluten and our bodies are beginning to rebel!
Weatabix for breakfast, a sandwich for lunch, pasta for dinner. A muffin, croissant or biscuit in between meals and a beer in the pub. You may consume all of this in just one day, and all of these contain gluten. Add any ready-made products such as soups or sauces to it (these often have wheat/gluten added to them) and you can see how you have just burdened your digestive system with a giant load of gluten.
Common signs of gluten rebellion? Bloating, gas, constipation or diarrhea, feeling sluggish, bad skin, depression (yes really) and low energy to name a few.
Our digestion naturally does not like gluten and has quite a hard time digesting it, especially in large quantities. Moreover, due to modern farming methods and hybredization of the wheat grain wheat contains significantly much more gluten then it used to years ago. Afterall, it's the gluten part of the grain which makes our bread so nice, soft and fluffy. But what's more, the latest science also shows links between the pesticides used to grow wheat and digestive issues. All in all, not good news for our ever increasing appetites, ever increasing intake of baked goods but ever decreasing health.
Many people who are suddenly diagnosed as ‘gluten or wheat intolerant’ may feel that their whole (food) world has just crumbled down. Mainly because it seems that when you are gluten-free you really can’t eat anything at all, right...?
Make your way to any local supermarket and indeed this misconception will be confirmed. The isle which has the ‘Gluten Free’ section is always shockingly small and exceptionally expensive. It contains breads with too many ingredients, highly processed sugary snack bars, perhaps a singular variety of a cake, biscuit or soup, and pastas that cost much more per bag than you'd like to spend on your evening bowl of bolognese. Not fun and very restrictive…
But don’t be fooled. Just because the gluten-free section is labelled as such does not mean that the rest of your supermarket is loaded with gluten! Many foods may not be labelled gluten free, but they simply are. The entire fresh fruit and vegetable isle is indeed entirely gluten free. As is the majority of the fresh fish counter, the fresh meat and poultry section, most of the egg and dairy products, the drinks section, the nut section, many snacks and chocolates, many canned and fresh beans and all types of rice and Asian foods. In fact, I would say (this is a non statistical estimate though!) that at least 70% of your local supermarket is gluten free.
So if you are an unfortunate gluten-free soul, next time you visit your supermarket, enter it with a different mind set. Realize that there are still more foods that you CAN eat than that you CAN'T eat. There is such a variety of foods to be enjoyed. Gluten is just a tiny percentage of it.
I would go as far as to say that being gluten-free can be a blessing as it forces you to steer away from unhealthy processed food and baked and breaded goods which aren’t particularly good for us at the best of times. Gluten free cooking means looking outside the box using as many wholesome ingredients as possible instead of buying the few available heavily processed gluten-free options. You should soon feel the massive difference in your health.
As a nutritional therapist, knowing the downsides of eating gluten and seeing the side effect gluten has on so many clients, by choice I eat mostly gluten free with the odd cheat day. I can guarantee you that over the past few years this has made a world of difference to my energy levels and digestion. To put it bluntly: I rarely fart these days and bloating is a thing from a long forgotten past…
Here is a list of grains that are 100% gluten free, delicious, filling and an excellent replacement for things like bread and pasta. Using them may take some experimenting in the kitchen but it is well worth the effort if restoring your gut health is your main priority.
Quinoa (available in most supermarkets these days)
White and brown rice, all varieties
Gram flour (made from chickpeas)
Oats (not entirely gluten free, but many people with gluten sensitivity tolerate oats)
So to all you gluttonous gluten eating people out there, try to go gluten free for a week or two. You may be surprised how good it may make you feel.
Meagre gluten free section at average supermarket
Selection of gluten free flours and grains