Gluten-free, what gives? A beginner guide to the popular eating trend.

Gluten-free, what gives? A beginner guide to the popular eating trend.

Author -  Good Health

Gluten-free seems to be the new, trendy thing. It’s everywhere from cafes to supermarkets and local farmers markets, not to mention Instagram and Pinterest! But is it more than just a trend? Becoming gluten-free is about living a healthier lifestyle and is not only for those with celiacs disease. People experience some unexpected health benefits from improved digestion to increased vitality which our naturopaths explain in more detail.

Why go gluten-free?

Gluten is a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye, barley, spelt, and oats (through cross contamination). The wheat we eat today is very different to the wheat our ancestors ate – it contains a higher level of gluten making it harder to digest.   More than 100 years ago wheat production used to consist of “soft wheat” varieties, but a “hard spring wheat” variety which contained higher protein content - gluten was introduced because the higher content of gluten in the flour resulted in fluffier bread. A higher agriculture demand meant a higher yielding crop was developed. The wheat our ancestors ate typically grew to around four feet tall but is now harvested to two feet tall with a larger seed head.

Gluten-free is not just for coeliacs

Gluten-free can help relieve irritable bowel and reduce bloating, gas and diarrhea or constipation as well as some unexplained symptoms including brain fog; unexplained fatigue, joint and general muscle pain, migraines/headaches, mood swings, and skin conditions particularly eczema and psoriasis. It can also help with autoimmune conditions including Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, Systemic Lupus, Ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, Multiple sclerosis, Psoriasis, and Rheumatoid arthritis.

Gluten-free is easier on digestion

Gluten-containing grains are some of the most difficult foods for humans to digest.  Gluten even sounds like glue and with good reason. Have you noticed that it feels like glue when you chew it and becomes all sticky?  This effect happens throughout your digestive system, especially in the colon where it sticks to your gut walls, clogging it up and slowing down digestion.

Try some Gluten-free grains

These are easier to digest and include amaranth, buckwheat, corn (maize), millet, quinoa and rice. There are many delicious gluten-free breads now available and gluten-free cereals to try.

Gluten increases inflammation

Gluten-containing grains are acidic and cause inflammation not only in the digestive tract but throughout the whole body… The more refined the grain the more inflammatory it is and inflammation contributes to many diseases including allergies, asthma, type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

There are still lots of great foods to eat!

Don’t focus on what you can’t eat – focus on all the yummy foods you can eat! If you fancy a treat – gluten-free cakes or desserts taste just as good as the gluten versions, you just have to look a little harder for them.  Most cafes now have gluten-free options (a favourite seems to be orange and almond cake) and don’t forget all the other food groups. Protein (unprocessed of course, grilled steak, chicken, and fish), healthy carbohydrates (brown rice, corn, kumara, pumpkin), nuts and all the yummy in-season fruit and vegetables - yes they can be delicious!

Be careful of gluten hidden in prepackaged foods

Gluten is often found in packaged foods such as soy sauce, salad dressings, pre-packaged ready meals and sauces.  If you have a serious allergy to gluten it pays to take a quick peek at the ingredient panel. Most companies now have an allergen statement on the packet.

Not all products recommended may be available in South Africa at this time.

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Not all products recommended may be available in South Africa at this time