Gluten Free?

I have been gluten free for about 20 years. When I first began having reactions to food and found an integrative doctor who understood what was happening to my body, gluten was one of the first things she told me to eliminate. When I tried to introduce it again, I got sick :(

This was long before gluten free was even a thing. There were NO gluten free options in 1996 except for rice cakes or Asian rice crackers. I had to do my own experimenting, and it wasn’t fun.

So many people are experiencing gluten intolerance today that you can find just about gluten free everything:  pasta, pizza crusts, cookies, cakes , even Italian pastries.

But, the question is: Why is gluten intolerance so prevalent today?

One answer is that the wheat is different. The agricultural “Green Revolution” of the 1960s aimed to increase yields with the use of synthetic fertilizers , and eventually herbicides, pesticides and fungicides. So, wheat was hybridized to increase the yields and this hybridiztion most likely increased the amount of gluten in the plant. Then the plant, which was grown in soil treated by chemicals, was harvested and milled into a refined white flour, which we, as Americans ate and still continue to eat throughout the day- For breakfast: cereals, bagels, English muffins, toast. For lunch: Sandwiches.  For dinner: Pasta, bread, breaded meats or vegetables. For snacks: pretzels, crackers, cookies, cakes.

Traditionally, people ate grain products more seasonably so to speak. It was not ever present. It was grown (organically), harvested, stored and milled whole, not stripped of all it’s nutrients. When it was made into bread, it was made as sourdough bread, with the freshly milled flour being fermented. This deactivates certain enzyme inhibitors like phytic acid which is present in the bran and which can leach certain minerals from our bodies (like calcium, zinc and magnesium).

Now, in our modern agriculture, besides the use of pesticides, herbicides or fungicides on our grain crops, most grains are sprayed with Round Up (glyphosate) as a dessicant. Please see the previous post for more information about glyphosate in our food.

Remember that glyphosate changes our gut bacteria. It allows pathogenic bacteria to thrive while killing off beneficial bacteria. Without our beneficial bacteria, our immune system suffers. So, cutting out the gluten can help jump start some healing. But it is not enough.

This is where my love/hate relationship with gluten free comes in!

Gluten is only part of the problem. Our systems  and more specifically our digestive systems, our gut microbiome are the bigger part of the problem. If we want to heal from immune issues and food sensitivities, we need to be conscious of healing our microbiome- be kind to our beneficial bacteria.

Pathogenic bacteria feed on sugars and simple carbohydrates. Gluten free products like cakes, cookies, pizza crusts, pastas, etc. are simple carbohydrates that turn to sugar very quickly in our bodies. And, they feed our pathogenic gut bacteria.

And, many of these gluten free grains are also sprayed with glyphosate before harvest, so it is not always the best option.

Now, I’m not saying don’t be gluten free. I still am, but I limit how much processed gluten free foods I eat. I opt instead for whole grains like rice, millet, quinoa, buckwheat, teff. I will make them into porridges or make them into flours for pancakes or breads.

I do still use gluten free baking products, but only for the ocassional treat.

The bulk of my diet comes from organic pastured meats, fresh vegetables, as many as I can make and eat, some grains and lacto fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, kefir, yogurt.

Some folks who are gluten free can find that they can tolerate heirloom wheats like einkorn, emmer, spelt or triticale. These are the original plants before hybridization. That is very individual, and proper preparation of grains is key!

While going gluten free may help initially, it is important to remember that if you truly want to heal your gut, you want to avoid processed foods.

Tomorrow, we will look more at proper preparation of grains.

Until then..

Here are some resources on gluten and wheat processing:

Research sheds light on gluten issues

What’s Wrong with Modern Wheat?

Are GMO’s Linked to Gluten Sensitivity? 

 

 

 

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