By now you've probably seen the Jimmy Kimmel gluten-free video clip. Many people who are eating gluten free don't have any idea why they are! So I thought it would be good to write a gluten free refresher course and also answer some frequent gluten questions.
#1) What is gluten?
Gluten is the protein found in certain types of grains such as wheat, couscous, barley, rye, spelt, durum, bulgur, Gluten is what holds the bread, muffins, pastries together.
#2) Who should not consume gluten?
This is a really important question and probably why there is so much confusion over gluten free! The people that must stay away from gluten are those with Celiac Disease, gluten allergy and gluten intolerance. Those with Celiac Disease are the most crucial group to not consume gluten as even cross-contamination can trigger adverse health responses.
#3) What is Celiac Disease?
Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disease that primarily affects the digestive system with secondary symptoms such as depression, brain fog, reflux and in some extreme cases, vomiting. (Note: this is why healing the gut is so important as it affects much of our health - our gut is called the second brain for a reason.)
#4) Is gluten bad?
To answer this simply, no, gluten is not inherently "bad". It is "bad" for those with Celiac Disease, gluten allergy, gluten intolerant. What's "bad" is the processed products that are generally contain gluten. These ingredients include white refined flour, sugar, artificial dyes, preservatives, man-made fats.
#5) Should I go gluten free?
This can be a tricky question to answer as most people asking this aren't one of the three groups of people above (Celiac, allergy, intolerant). As seen in the Jimmy Kimmel gluten free interview, no one had any idea why they were gluten free let alone what gluten was! This is where I always ask people (again, after ruling out the three groups of people that can't have gluten) why they want to go gluten free. Generally, people have seen a celebrity crediting their gluten free ways as a method to lose weight. Or a talk show host talking about the latest diet trend i.e. gluten free and weight loss. What people need to remember is that our food system (for more on this topics, check out Food Babe and Robyn O'Brien) is not what it used to be. When I counsel and consult people if they should go "gluten free" or not is to get back to the basics. That means to eat real, organic foods in their natural state. Breaking news: it might not be the gluten making you sick but the other ingredients (BHT, artificial dyes, GMO ingredients, artificial sweeteners, sugars that are.
#6) Are gluten free products better?
Another great question! There is a major difference between gluten free products and gluten free foods. The latter are naturally gluten free in their original state. Naturally gluten free, organic foods (i.e. quinoa, Hemp Hearts, chia seeds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds, coconut oil, kale, spinach, etc), are always going to be optimal for your health, the planet, the environment. The concern with many gluten free products is that some contain less than desirable ingredients that are more harmful than helpful! I looked at a package of gluten free pretzels recently and the ingredient list was quite alarming (palm oil, soy lecithin, GMO corn to name a few). Yes, it might have been "gluten free" but the ingredients that made up the pretzels is not magic for a healthy body. Since most people who are looking into going gluten free are generally looking to lose weight or maintain their weight the best thing they can do is to eat a nutrient-dense organic food lifestyle. Check out this post for what real, organic foods are and how you can incorporate them into your lifestyle! If you are looking to go gluten free, choose naturally gluten free, organic, real foods. A "diet" (as in the foods you eat) that is heavy in gluten free processed products will still cause health problems. Remember, a gluten free label doesn't always mean a healthy product.
Note: There are many reasons to why a person has trouble digesting gluten, losing weight, gaining weight and the answer is not always a straight shot to simply go "gluten free". It can certainly help, but shouldn't stop there. By seeking professional advice, healing the gut, healing from emotional trauma/abuse (a frequent cause of autoimmune diseases), the questions turn into answers and ultimately, health. But a friendly reminder that it is a process and not an overnight quick fix.
#7) If I go gluten free, will I lose weight?
As alluded to in the above question, going gluten free is not a quick solution to a long-term problem. Going gluten free might help in losing weight, but if the overall lifestyle of a person isn't changed, gluten free alone isn't the magic potion. (Sorry!) People who tend to eat gluten free and lose weight is because they no longer eat the same products they once were.
#8) What do I do now? Where do I go from here?
Remember the basics of gluten free eating: eat naturally gluten free, organic, real foods. Heal the gut by taking quality probiotics. Make digestive health a top priority (limit or cut out sugar all together, take probiotics and digestive enzymes). Talk with other people in the gluten free community. And remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Learn more about living gluten free! Visit http://udisglutenfree.com/community
This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Udi's Gluten Free. The opinions and text are all mine.