Good question. The recent trend in gluten-free foods is allowing many to realize that gluten has not been good for their health. Aches clear up, inflammation goes away, headaches and migraines vanish, digestion improves, chronic anemia resolves, auto immune diseases go into remission, etc. So, what key to wellness does a gluten-free diet hold? Many. The two conditions improved by a gluten-free diet are celiac disease (CD) and gluten intolerance (GI). Celiac disease (CD) affects 1 out of 133 Americans, or about 3 million people. This autoimmune disorder is genetic and leaves one unable to digest gluten properly. The result of this autoimmune disorder is damage and flattening to the villi that are responsible for absorption of nutrients. Gl affects about 1 out every 10 people and it is an inability to digest gluten, much like lactose intolerance, and can result in much of the same health problems as those with CD. Ninety percent of those with CD are still undiagnosed and those with GI are usually diagnosing themselves.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye and in many cases oats due to cross contamination with wheat in processing. The list of forbidden foods is long, as wheat is found in many forms in many products. For a complete list of both safe and forbidden foods please visit www.theglutenfreegirl.com. The theories as to why many of us feel better eating a gluten-free diet stem from a few areas of reason. One is that the wheat we have been eating for the last few decades that has been genetically modified to resist pests and drought, and with that change came an inability to digest the protein. Along those lines according to substantial research done by Dr. Loren Cordain, PhD, author of The Paleo Diet, 10,000 years ago cereal grains were introduced into the diet as a result of the agricultural revolution. Until that time, for 2 million years, we were hunter gatherers. The foods that agriculture brought us cereals, dairy products, fatty meats, salted foods, and refined sugars and oils- proved disastrous for our Paleolithic bodies. As well summarized by Jack Challem, The Nutrition Reporter, Look at in another way, 100,000 generations of people were hunter-gatherers, 500 generations have depended on agriculture, and only 10 generations have lived since the start of the industrial age, and only two generations have grown up with highly processed fast foods. This short period of time in the course of man’s existence that grains have been around has proven that many of us are not physiologically able to tolerate gluten.

Going gluten-free can be a miracle for those living with chronic conditions that cannot be helped by medications or other therapies. Dr. Braly, author of Dangerous Grains, reports that undiagnosed sensitivities to gluten, gliadin, and other grain proteins are the root cause of many cancers, autoimmune diseases, neurological diseases, chronic pain syndromes, psychiatric and other brain disorders, and premature death. He further states, There is also a clear causal connection with some cases of osteoporosis, epilepsy, learning disorders, attention deficit disorders, infertility, miscarriage, premature births, chronic liver disease, and short stature. By avoiding all gluten containing foods for 10 days many can feel conditions improve and this is an easy way to see if gluten is indeed a problem for you.

These days the gluten-free world offers many great things; bread that actually toasts, bagels, and in some progressive areas pizza and pasta out in the restaurants. When shopping it is easy to fall prey to buying a lot of junk food gluten-free items that may taste good but offer no nutritional value. Many of the gluten-free flours used in main stream products lack vitamins and minerals. These flours are not fortified like wheat flour so try to choose products made with flours that are nutrient dense like buckwheat, brown rice, sorghum and coconut. These flours provide protein, fiber, B vitamins and minerals. It is important to eat a healthy diet and restore nutrient status in your body. GI and CD often deplete the body and leave many with less than optimal health.

Julie McGinnis, MS, RD, gluten-free 8 years
Owner, The Gluten Free Bistro
The Gluten Free Bistro (www.theglutenfreebistro.com) offers a blog that converts many of Martha Stewart’s recipes to gluten-free and supplies restaurants in Colorado, Utah and New Mexico.