Gluten sensitivity has become a hot topic these days. Because of its relationship to osteoporosis, acne, allergies, and other conditions, it shouldn’t be a surprise there’s so much interest in gluten. But what precisely is gluten? How can it effect your health? And why should you care? Let’s explore these questions now.
To begin, we’ll define what gluten is and is not. Gluten is a substance (technically a protein) found in a handful of specific grains. Gluten isn’t a bacteria, virus, or some kind of artificial food additive. It is a naturally occuring part of the grains in which it is found, and these grains are called “gluten grains”.
Gluten occurs naturally in only three grains: rye, wheat, and barley. If you eat even a small serving of any of those grains, you’ll be ingesting gluten. Don’t forget that this includes flours made from these grains, as well as any other foods made from these grains, such as beer, pretzels, and bread.
Gluten can cause health problems because in certain individuals, it causes damage to the intestinal lining and causes the immune system to become imbalanced. This then causes of whole host of problems, including nutrient deficiencies, anemia, autoimmune diseases, and more.
Some confusion has arisen over whether oats should be considered gluten grains. The short answer is: maybe. Oats do contain a substance similar to gluten, but it is different than the gluten in wheat, barley, and rye. This substance in oats isn’t a problem for most people. However, the issue lies in cross-contamination. Oats are often grown near gluten grains, and are loaded onto the same trucks and processed in the same machines as gluten grains. This leads to traces of wheat, barley, or rye gluten being found in oats. Shop for labels stating “gluten-free” when purchasing oats to be sure don’t contain gluten.
Gluten can also be found in places you wouldn’t expect. Because they are dipped in gluten-flour based batter prior to frying, fried foods often contain gluten. Another surprise is soy sauce; it actually contains gluten. Look for tamari to put on your favorite Chinese food instead, it is usually gluten-free. Gluten itself is sometimes added as agent in foods such as candies, to provide texture and consistency.
Grains containing gluten became a staple of our diet around 10,000 years ago, when the first agricultural societies experimented with relying on cereal grains for sustenance. Our dependence on cereal grains, including gluten-containing grains, hasn’t fallen out of favor.
It is interesting to note that the geographical areas that have had the longest exposure to gluten in their diets, also tend to have the lowest incidence of gluten allergy (celiac disease). Common scientific thought on this reveals that it likely takes many generations for our bodies to adapt to eating this gluten as a food. The fact that many of our genomes aren’t fully adapted to eating gluten is a likely reason for such a large number of people being sensitive to gluten.
If you now or in the past have suffered from frequent stomach or bowel problems, autoimmune diseases, anemia, arthritis, or skin conditions, you should consider that perhaps you too have a sensitivity to gluten.
To find out if gluten may be causing your health condition, visit your Portland Chiropractor for an evaluation. You should look for a Portland Chiropractor experienced in treating gluten-related conditions and begin your road to recovery.