You’ve probably heard of gluten-free by now. It has become a buzzword over the last few years. There are plenty of people jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon and experiencing better health. This is due to the growing number of people with gluten sensitivities. My son happens to be one of these. While he has not been diagnosed with Celiac disease, he definitely has digestive issues with grains containing gluten. Digestive issues in a toddler is not something you want to mess with.
It Can be Toxic
So what is gluten? It’s a protein found in several grains, specifically wheat, rye, barley and triticale. In individuals that have sensitivities this protein irritates the intestines. This can lead to inflammation, diarrhea, malabsorption of nutrients and eventually leaky gut (where toxins start to pass through the intestinal wall). Sensitivities can range from mild to severe: some people can tolerate properly prepared grains with gluten while those with Celiac Disease can get sick from eating the slightest bit.
When I was growing up I had never heard of Celiac or someone not being able to eat bread – impossible, right? These days 1 out of every 133 people has Celiac disease. That’s not including people that have lesser “sensitivities.”
The Increase in Sensitivities
What changed? Why are there so many people reacting to gluten now? For starters, Americans are eating massive amounts of grains that are improperly prepared. The grains that make up the processed breads, flours, pastas, etc. that are the basis of the SAD (Standard American Diet) have not been soaked or sprouted. These processes break down the phytic acid in grains, making them easier to digest (more on that in another post).
Another contributing factor is the types of grains being consumed. Hybridized grains can contain more gluten than their ancestral counterparts.
Cutting the Gluten
If you think you have a gluten intolerance you should try cutting out gluten and see how you feel. Going completely gluten-free can be daunting at first because so many products contain gluten. You will need to read labels! Did you know gluten can be found in sauces, seasonings, cheese, processed meats, and even tea? Seriously, tea! The only way to be sure a product doesn’t contain gluten is if it is labeled “gluten-free.” We started by getting rid of the obvious foods and then slowly ridding our pantry of the hidden gluten.
Eating Healthy Gluten Free
There are plenty of things you can’t eat if you are avoiding gluten and your first instinct might be to rush out and buy all of the gluten-free replacements. The problem with this is that they are likely to be highly processed. So lets focus on what you can eat! I’ve got some tips below to help guide a whole foods-based gluten-free lifestyle.
- Eat whole foods! If you are eating whole foods you know there isn’t any gluten in it as long as you are avoiding the offending grains.
- Explore the world of gluten-free grains. There is a world of grains out there that don’t contain gluten. Rice, quinoa, buckwheat, corn, millet, amaranth, and oats are a few of the many choices out there. Just make sure you are properly soaking or sprouting these!
- Change the key players in your menu. Instead of making breads and pastas the center of your meals, look for recipes that focus on meats, veggies, and other whole grains.
- Go global. Many cultures around the world put much less emphasis on bread and pasta than the SAD. Check out some Indian or Asian-inspired recipes.
- Eat beans! These guys are under-utilized these days in most households. They are cheap, easy to store, and naturally gluten-free. As with the grains, make sure you soak or sprout them as necessary.
- Get your hands on gluten free flours. When you’re ready, check out the many flour alternatives available for cooking and baking. They are made from grains, beans and nuts and can make some delicious treats.
Tomorrow I’ll be sharing a delicious cookie recipe that is gluten-free. In the meantime, you can check out these links to some awesome gluten-free recipes that focus on whole foods.
Filipino Adobo Chicken from Retro Mama, Vintage Wife
3 Minute Baba Ghanoush from Riddlelove
Quinoa Stuffed Grilled Peppers from The Spinach Spot
Mexican Rice by Modern Alternative Mama