GLUTEN…..why and when did it become the enemy of many?
We are so very lucky to present to you another guest post. This time by the lovely Jacinta Harding from Optimum Health. She explains to us the ins and outs of gluten in a way that is easy to understand and apply to every day life.
So … what is it? Where is it found? And when and why should it be removed from our diets and when should we question if we have the symptoms of allergy or intolerance?
Gluten is a combination of two different proteins, gliadin and glutenin. These proteins are found in the endosperm of wheat. Glutens natural role is to nourish plant embryos during germination in grains such as wheat and oats. In cooking, it is used to bring elasticity to dough and as such, adds to the chewiness of baked wheat products.
There are a lot of theories out there at the moment surrounding gluten; and “gluten” has become a much gossiped about subject. Some people refer to it as the root of all evil, others think it is over-rated, others think that “gluten free” is just another fad … so, what is it all about?
And … why is it only NOW that it seems to have become such a problem?
Firstly, Coeliac disease it NOT a “new thing” it has been around forever. Unfortunately though, it has been underdiagnosed in the past and now, likely due to better chances of diagnosis, changes in processing of foods and environmental factors, it is becoming both more recognised and more prevalent. It is known that there is still a large percentage of our population not yet diagnosed.
So, Coeliac refers to where there is an autoimmune disease and an allergic reaction to gluten. Individuals with coeliac disease need to completely abstain from any trace of gluten to avoid ill-health and in many cases severe health complications long term.
But, what about others who do not tolerate gluten? How and why does this happen? Why is this “a new thing?”
An interesting theory, and part of this is in the processing of gluten containing foods now compared to days past. We may be seemingly eating the same “foods” but in fact we are eating similar food like products.
An example of this … If you lived anywhere in the vicinity of a large scale bakery in your childhood, you would remember passing them and relishing the smell of “freshly baked bread”. The point of difference between now and then if you remember is that 20 or so years ago the large scale bakeries such as one in the western suburbs or Brisbane ran two shifts in a 24 hour period. In one shift the dough was made, it then sat and proved/fermented for the next shift, which meant that the gluten proteins and other components were able to break down and ferment etc into an easily digestible form naturally….. Next, along come the big boys, a need for more profit and probably to be fair a need to produce bigger output to accommodate a growing population … so out goes the proving and in comes the chemicals to “get the bread ready to bake” and out goes the natural way it becomes an identifiable food to the body.
Gluten has also become such an ingrained part of our diet mostly without our conscious knowledge. It can be found in the strangest places, the reasons for which this happens is a mystery (lots of conspiracy theories though). Start looking closely at the labels and you will find it in bacon, iced tea, sundried tomatoes … everywhere you look there is “gluten”. So, not only is it no longer processed in a way that our body can identify, it is constantly finding its way in. Is this why our bodies cannot “tolerate” any more?? Just like anything else, the body can only take so much before it lets you know “enough already!!”
What might you experience if your body is trying to tell you it’s not able to cope with it. Allergy or intolerance?
The symptoms are many and varied and it is now known that the outcome person to person will be different. It is also known that the gene expression in coeliac disease is the same as in lupus, Crohns and other conditions. It is also known that it is one of the underlying problems in Autism and autistic like behaviours.
So what about the rest of us? (well, not me, I am Coeliac). What symptoms may indicate a problem?
Any selection from: anaemia, bloating, IBS, blurred vision, excess sweating, mouth ulcers, eczema, stomach cramps, asthma, chronic fatigue, depression, mind fog, sleep problems, headaches, itchy skin, miscarriages, craving of foods containing gluten, nausea, psoriasis, fainting or dizziness, weight gain, weight loss or inability to gain weight and there are many more less common as the symptoms will seek out your individual weaknesses.
How can you reduce the “load”?
Really, it is not just about reducing the gluten. The best thing you can do for your health is to reduce or ideally eliminate all processed foods and nurture your body with “food that it can identify, process and utilise for the good of the body”.
When all is said and done though, if you are seemingly in good health, nurture your body and remember ….
“Everything in moderation, including moderation”
Jacinta Harding is the founder of “Optimum Health” in Ipswich. She is B HSC Nutritional Medicine, Nutritional Medicine Practitioner and Herbalist; ANTA Member, MIndd Foundation Member and ACNEM.
You can read more about her here.
In VERY exciting news, Jacinta has recently published a book about Gluten, Casein and Lactose!!! Please have a look at it here 🙂