It drives me bonkers when I go to a restaurant and ask for a gluten-free menu or gluten-free suggestions, and the waitress/waiter gives me “THAT” look. The look that says, “Oh, you are one of THOSE.”
Granted, restaurant options are getting better, especially in more health-conscious regions, and many restaurants are getting very used to their customers making special dietary requests. (Florida, pay attention, you have some catching up to do!)
So what exactly is gluten? Gluten is a protein that is found in many grains such as wheat, barley, rye, and spelt. It gives the dough its “sticky” texture and makes your bread nice and fluffy. But it is also used as a binding agent (think “glue”) so you will find gluten in soy sauce, hot dogs and other processed foods, cosmetics, condiments, detergents, and body products.
In people who are sensitive to gluten (which is about 80% of the US population according to the scientific research), the body thinks the proteins are foreign invaders and begins to create antibodies. These antibodies not only attack the proteins, but also the enzymes that help break down gluten.
These enzymes are important because they help hold the microvilli in the gut together so when you eat, nutrients are absorbed and food particles stay in the digestive tract. When you don’t digest gluten properly, then the microvilli in your intestine become damaged, cells separate and form “gaps”, food escapes, and nutrients are not absorbed. This is called leaky gut or intestinal impermeability.
Your immune system then thinks these escaped food particles are invaders, and attacks those as well. Now your body has inflammation. But the inflammation can occur anywhere in your body depending on your genetic disposition.
Health issues associated with gluten sensitivity are not limited to Celiac disease!
Here are some others:
- Auto-immune Disorders
- PCOS and Endometriosis
- Hypo-Hyper Thyroid
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Digestive Problems/Bloating
I appreciate that food manufacturers make their best ignorant attempt to cater to people with gluten sensitivity by creating “gluten-free” products. They are, indeed, trying to solve a problem while benefitting from the financial profits of a new niche of people.
This is where things go horribly wrong, though. Most boxed and packaged gluten-free foods are just as processed and even worse for you than their conventional counterparts. Food industries are not trying to sell you something that is healthy, they are simply trying to give you a fast substitute for foods you are trying to avoid.
Your best option is to just stick to food that is gluten free naturally.