Gluten is the protein found in wheat, spelt, kamut, rye, and barley. Oat contains a similar type of protein and is also contaminated with wheat gluten, so it is also best avoided if sensitive.
One in 133 people have devastating celiac disease, but one in seventeen may be sensitive to wheat. 99% of the people who have either gluten intolerance or celiac disease have not been diagnosed.
Gluten Intolerance/Sensitivity Quiz:
- Do you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Inflammatory Bowel Disease?
- Do you experience anxiety, depression, mood swings, and ADD?
- Do you have hormone imbalances, such as PMS, PCOS, or unexplained infertility?
- Do you have “chicken skin” on the back of your arms? This condition is called Keratosis Pilaris, caused by a fatty acid deficiency and vitamin A deficiency secondary to fat mal-absorption caused by gluten damaging the gut.
- Do you suffer from chronic fatigue or chronic muscle pain (i.e. fibromyalgia)?
- Do you suffer from gas, bloating, diarrhea, or constipation?
- Do you experience fatigue, brain fog, or feeling tired after eating a meal that contains pasta, bread, cereal, or cookies that contain wheat, spelt, kamut, rye, or barley?
- Do you have an autoimmune disease, such as Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Ulcerative Colitis, Lupus, Psoriasis, Scleroderma, or Multiple Sclerosis?
- Do you suffer from dizziness or feeling off balance?
- Do you cope with chronic inflammation, swelling, or pain in your joints, such as fingers, knees, or hips?
- Do you have migraine headaches?
If you answer yes to a number of these questions, you should pursue a test to see if you have a gluten allergy, intolerance, or sensitivity.
I have found the single best way to determine if you have an issue with gluten is to do an elimination test period like the one outlined in my book Meals That Heal Inflammation (Hay House). Take gluten out of your diet for one to two months and then reintroduce it. Please note that gluten is a very large protein, and it can take months and even years to clear from your system, so the longer you can eliminate it from your diet before reintroducing it, the better.
The best advice that I share with my patients is that if they feel significantly better off of gluten or feel worse when they reintroduce it, then gluten is likely a problem for them. In order to get accurate results from this testing method, you must eliminate 100% of the gluten from your diet. That means you have to read every food label and ask every restaurant to avoid flour in sauces and gravies.
How to Treat Gluten Intolerance
To really reach full vitality as a gluten sensitive person, you will have to let go of gluten 100%. Small traces of gluten from the dusting of chicken breasts before grilling or flour in a gravy can be enough to cause an immune reaction in your body.
I am concerned about supplement companies that say they have gluten enzymes that allow you to indulge in wheat. It is not just the gluten you have to worry about! You may be sensitive to wheat lectins, and avoidance is the only real way to give the immune system a way to heal!
The standard wisdom of eating gluten as a treat does not apply. Because gluten has long lasting side effects, exposure once a week can leave you with subtle symptoms that keep you from total lasting vitality. Choose the big fun of health over the small fun of a five-minute bagel.
What Are the Alternatives
- Amaranth: Amaranth is an excellent source of protein and has a pleasant peppery and nutty flavor.
- Arrowroot: With a look and texture similar to cornstarch, arrowroot makes a great substitute for cornstarch.
- Buckwheat: Buckwheat is related to rhubarb and, as confusing as its name sounds, is completely gluten free (it is also known as groats and kasha).
- Coconut: After the fat is removed in the production of coconut butter, the meal left over is very high in fiber and protein.
- Job’s Tears: A tall, tropical plant that produces a grain that’s gluten-free. Often dried and cooked as a grain like barley, it is being researched for its power to reduce pain and cancer risk.
- Mesquite: A shrub that produces bean pods, which can be dried and ground into flour. It adds a sweet, nutty taste with a hint of molasses.
- Millet: Actually a grass with a small seed that grows in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors.
- Quinoa (hie): A fruit, not a grain. Quinoa flours and pastas are available.
- Rice: A common staple in the gluten-free diet, but be careful, as you can develop a rice intolerance if over consumed.
- Sorghum: Also known as milo, this gluten-free insoluble fiber’s bland flavor and light color don’t change the taste or look of foods when it’s used instead of wheat flour.
- Tapioca: Tapioca comes from the root vegetable cassava and is used a great deal as a thickener.
- Teff: Actually a grass with a seed that fits on the head of a pin. It tastes a lot like Amaranth.
Nutritionist Julie Daniluk RHN hosts The Healthy Gourmet on the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), a reality cooking show that looks at the ongoing battle between taste and nutrition. Her first bestselling book, Meals That Heal Inflammation, advises on allergy-free foods that both taste great and assist the body in the healing process. Julie has appeared on The Dr. Oz Show, and is a resident expert for The Marilyn Denis Show and Readers Digest. Check out more amazing recipes, nutrition tips, and her Anti-Inflammatory Quick Start Program at www.juliedaniluk.com and follow her on Facebook at Julie Daniluk Nutrition and on Twitter @juliedaniluk.