Why do I not eat gluten?

‘Gluten free’ has always been considered a bit of a fad diet.  Twenty years ago, it was fairly rare for someone to say they were gluten free, unless they were diagnosed with celiac disease.  Now there is a multi-million dollar industry devoted to gluten free eating.  So where does the truth lie, and why does my family avoid gluten?

There is a condition known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS).  There is lots of evidence in the scientific literature linking this condition to health issues such as autism, schizophrenia, type I diabetes, depression and allergies.  Testing for celiac disease will not necessarily show up NCGS, as this test only looks at antibodies to two of the protein fractions present in gluten.  Other testing is available through practitioners to look at reactions to more of the gluten fractions.  No test is completely foolproof, and the best way to determine if you have NCGS may be do an elimination diet for a period of time, followed by a reintroduction.  You will be able to see at first hand if you feel better not eating gluten.

There are other reasons to avoid gluten too.  If you suffer from an auto-immune condition, gluten can be harmful for your body.  I had known for a few years that gluten was not good for me.  I completed a ‘Whole30’, and running injuries I had had for over a year disappeared over the course of the first week.  When I introduced gluten back into my diet, the old inflammation flared up.  Although this was strong evidence, it wasn’t enough to keep me 100% gluten free.  I continued to be “mostly gluten free”, which is similar to being “half pregnant” for a few years.  Then I was diagnosed with discoid lupus erythematosus, an autoimmune condition affecting my skin.  This was the motivation I needed to kick gluten to the kerb entirely.  So what does auto-immunity have to do with gluten?  Gluten causes leaky gut (check out Alessio Fasano for the research on this).  Having a permeable gut means that things that you eat are able to get into your bloodstream when they aren’t meant to.  This makes your immune system panic a bit, and creates inflammation.  Eventually your immune system will turn on itself, and auto-immunity develops.  Something called molecular mimicry also exists. Gluten is a large protein molecule which resembles your own body tissue, especially your thyroid tissue.  This confuses your body, so when you eat a slice of toast, your body starts attacking its own tissues as well as the gluten, this is molecular mimicry.

There is lots of debate about why people are sensitive to gluten.  Is it the pesticides that are being spray?  Is it the modern hybrids?  My guess it is because we have eaten too much of it.  The standard Australian diet will often have toast or breakfast cereal at breakfast, a muffin at morning tea, sandwiches at lunchtime and pasta for dinner.  Such reliance on one food does not constitute a balanced diet!  If you are considering moving to a gluten free diet, I would urge you to think carefully how you do it to maximise the health benefits.  Don’t just switch processed food containing gluten to processed food not containing gluten.  Take the opportunity to switch the toast for sweet potato, the pasta for zucchini noodles and the sandwich for a salad.  This is where the huge step change will take place.

If you have a chronic health condition, and would like to investigate gluten sensitivity as the underlying cause, get in touch with me :  http://holistichealthbylisamoane.com.au/talk-to-lisa/