Could Gluten Be Affecting Your Health?

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Something interesting happened to me a couple of weeks ago. It was almost 10 pm on a weeknight, I had just gotten home from a school meeting I had to go to after work. I was exhausted and hungry and did not want to go to bed with an empty stomach. Needless to say I didn’t get a chance to cook that night and it was one of those weeks when I hadn’t yet gone grocery shopping, so without thinking much about it, I popped a slice of bread in the toaster and ate it.

The next day I woke up with achy joints, which is what I experience every time I consume gluten. No surprise there. As the morning went by, I was working on something that required focus and attention to detail, and I found myself getting confused easily and not being very patient about it; after it happened for the third time, I started thinking that something was up because this was not the usual “me.” I was experiencing brain fog, irritability, and lack of clarity… and then it hit me that I had consumed gluten the night before. Even though this type of reaction was a first for me, I couldn’t think of anything else it could be. From what I’ve read on this topic, these symptoms are common for gluten-sensitive people. I was amazed!

Of course, everybody can react differently to gluten, and my experience doesn’t need to be your experience. The thing is, there are so many different ways you might react that it can easily be confused with other diseases. In other words, you may be gluten sensitive and not even know it! To make matters worse, gluten can be found in dozens of different foods and not only in bread and pasta.

But, what is gluten? Well, gluten is found in the endosperm of some grains, most notably wheat, rye and barley. It is made of two different types of protein called gliadin and glutenin, and in the case of wheat, these represent 80% of the protein content. The glutenin in wheat flour gives kneaded dough its elasticity, allows leavening and contributes chewiness to baked products.

I removed gluten from my diet 2 years ago, and although I am not 100% consistent, I can say I am about 95% consistent. I do not suffer from celiac disease nor am I gluten intolerant, but I do realize that gluten promotes inflammation. Given that now I understand inflammation is the root cause of most diseases, I stay away from it. After all, I want to keep up with the great results I’ve had naturally treating the rheumatoid arthritis I was diagnosed as having many years ago.

I come from a “bread culture” and in recent years, as I learned more and more about nutrition and health and began considering the option of going gluten-free, I realized that this was an emotional topic for me. Perhaps this is because I grew up eating bread on a daily basis, many times a day, or perhaps because throughout my life I often resorted to bread in moments of stress, fear, sadness… or plain boredom!

For a long time I wasn’t ready to quit and, more than that, I didn’t want to. But as time went on and I continued learning about the benefits of maintaining a gluten-free diet, and about the different reactions people have when consuming gluten, I too realized that sooner or later I would make the decision to quit.

As with everything else that I do, I am not “religious” about eating gluten-free, meaning that I understand I don’t have to do it 100% of the time and that it is good enough to be consistent about 90% to 95% of the time. This is an approach that works for me – and I know that once in a while I can treat myself to one of the foods I grew up eating, without feeling guilty about it.

What about you, would you say gluten is affecting your health?

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September 2010
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