What’s wrong with gluten? Nothing, in general. It seems like 15-20 years ago no one even knew what gluten was and now all of the sudden everyone is going gluten-free. The truth is that gluten is something that has been in the human diet for thousands of years. Most people have heard of celiac disease (an autoimmune disease that causes a severe and potentially deadly allergy to gluten) but there seems to be a lot of confusion around why people without celiac would go gluten-free, and I’ve noticed a lot of negativity towards people who claim gluten intolerance but don’t have celiac disease. Let me assure you that there are many LEGITIMATE reasons for a person to give up gluten other than just celiac and you should never make fun of or shame anyone for their dietary choices when all they are trying to do is feel well.
While it is true that humans have been consuming gluten for thousands of years the difference is in the amounts of gluten we have been consuming. Modern bread making processes are much different than the methods used to make bread when humans first started making and eating bread. Thanks to modern technology we can make bread much faster without having to let it ferment for long periods of time; the fermentation process greatly reduces the gluten content in bread. True sourdough bread made using traditional methods is virtually gluten-free because it is fermented for so long. Not only is there more gluten in bread and other baked goods than ever before, but modern people are consuming bread and baked goods in higher amounts and more frequently than ever. How many people have a piece of toast or pastry nearly every morning, a sandwich with two slices of bread for lunch everyday, and then a roll or slice of bread with dinner most nights? That seems like a pretty typical modern day diet, something very different than how we as humans ate throughout history.
Gluten causes inflammation in the body which is why it’s something that should be consumed in MODERATION just like many other foods. So, you’re like, “Okay, moderation, I get it. But why are so many people completely gluten-free then?” Well, because there are many people with inflammatory diseases (such as autoimmune diseases) that are highly sensitive to gluten and other inflammatory foods who’s quality of life and health greatly improve by simply removing gluten from their diet. Studies have shown that people with MS (like myself) have higher gluten antibodies in their blood work, so that means they are allergic to it. Before I went gluten-free my blood work showed very high inflammation markers which since going gluten-free have greatly decreased, and aside from that I just feel a whole lot better. People with digestive issues may find that gluten causes bloating and abdominal discomfort as with many inflammatory foods that are harder to digest, people with arthritis of (rheumatoid or degenerative) may find that gluten exacerbates their symptoms, and people trying to heal from injuries may find that they heal faster by reducing or avoiding gluten in their diets.
You don’t have to be afraid of gluten, you’re not going to automatically be healthier if you go gluten-free (although it’s not a bad idea to skip the roll at dinner from time to time). And please don’t roll your eyes or pass judgement when you hear someone asking about gluten-free options at a restaurant because you don’t know what their reason may be and there’s a good chance it’s a very valid one.
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