I get asked all the time, "Should I go gluten-free?" First, let me say that gluten-free does not automatically mean healthy. There are some very wrong ways to do a gluten-free diet, which is by consuming a lot of the processed, gluten-free items that are on the market today. Each case is different so some patients may need to start improving their diet by working on other things than removing gluten. It really depends, but I will tell you why I choose to personally keep the grains low in my diet and especially avoid consuming wheat:
- I get plenty of fiber and healthy carbohydrates from vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans and lentils. My Fitness Pal is a popular way to food track and when I use this app, I see that I get in plenty of carbs and fiber for the day without having one serving of a grain!
- My anxiety improved once I removed wheat from my diet. My health dramatically turned around once I broke my sugar addiction, but one thing I still had in my diet was quite a few sprouted grain products that contain wheat. Even though these are fairly healthy grains, my nutritionist recommended that I reduce these. I ended up replacing them for other great quality whole foods and noticed that my anxiety was much better and I no longer had "brain fog."
- My digestive issues improved. Once I removed the commercial dairy, sugar, and grains in my diet, I no longer had to run to the bathroom. I am no longer afraid to travel and go out to eat because I know what to eat and not to eat for my body. For me, giving up some of these foods was not a sacrifice. I just wanted to feel better and would do anything to make that happen!
- Grains can contribute to intestinal permeability, otherwise known as "leaky gut." Here's how (it goes beyond gluten!): Gluten is composed of two type of proteins called gliadin and gluten. Gliadin stimulates the release of a molecule called zonulin. Zonulin is a protein that causes the rearrangement of the tight junctions between the cells of the intestinal wall. In other words, it opens up the spaces between the intestinal cells, which leads to intestinal permeability. This becomes a problem because then foreign particles can get into the bloodstream and initiate an immune system reaction. To make matters worse, gliadin can also disrupt insulin function and thus contribute to insulin resistance.
- Grains contain lectins, which are proteins that attach themselves to carbohydrates. They are very resistant to digestion and start an inflammatory reaction in the gut. Lectins can bind to the cells of the intestinal wall and increase intestinal permeability. Lectins can also affect the balance of gut flora and the absorption of nutrients. Lectins are in a lot of foods, but by keeping the grains to a minimum we can reduce some of them.
- Grains contain phytic acid, which binds to minerals in the body potentially making us nutrient deficient. Nuts, seeds and beans also contain phytic acid, but we can prepare these correctly to neutralize the phytic acid content. Here is a great article from the Weston A. Price Foundation in regards to this.