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Bread…. Cake…. Pizza…. Pasta…. Most processed foods…..
What do these yummy foods have in common? They all have gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. It’s what holds the wheat together when it cooks – like glue. (Literally, you can make glue with flour and water.) But it gives your food that chewy texture.
What Happens When You Eat Gluten
Whether you are celiac, gluten sensitive, or not….
First and foremost, wheat affects your body by raising blood sugar levels. A 1981 study at the University of Toronto measured the blood sugar effects of carbohydrates. The higher the blood sugar after eating a certain food, the higher the GI (glycemic index).
Here’s what they found:
White bread – GI of 69
Wheat bread – GI of 72
Shredded wheat cereal – GI of 67
SUGAR (yes, pure sugar) – GI of 59
SNICKERS BAR – GI of 41
REALLY? It’s shocking to me that pure sugar actually raises your blood sugar less than bread!
Raising the blood sugar then raises insulin, a hormone that allows your body to use or store the glucose from eating carbohydrates. High blood sugar causes a higher insulin level, which leads to more fat being deposited into your body’s store.
According to Dr. Davis, over time, the fat being stored is most noticeable in your abdomen – aka a Wheat Belly. Some people may call it a beer belly – and rightly so if they drink a lot of it – but beer is of course, made from wheat.
The label of a “beer belly” is not helpful to those people who aren’t drinking it. I noticed the wheat belly in my daughter when she was only a toddler. She had skinny arms and legs and a pregnant looking belly.
Celiac vs. Gluten sensitivity
Some people have Celiac disease, an autoimmune reaction to gluten entering the body. If you don’t know that you have Celiac, then the villi in your intestines can become damaged from continuing to eat gluten. These villi are responsible for absorbing nutrients into the body, which is why you can be malnourished even if you have a big belly.
Celiac is hard to diagnose if you choose to follow a gluten-free lifestyle before getting officially tested. Unfortunately, my family did not get tested before we stopped eating gluten.
That leads to the next group of people who have a gluten intolerance or a gluten sensitivity. Both groups can have similar reactions to gluten in their diet such as:
Headaches & Migraines
Eczema or skin rashes
Allergic shiners (dark circles under your eyes)
Depression or Anxiety
And in really bad cases, Hallucinations
Benefits of a HEALTHY Gluten Free Lifestyle
I want to stress the HEALTHY part of the title of this section.
Yes, you can replace almost all processed gluten-full foods with processed gluten-free foods. However, any processed food is a far cry from the grain, fruit, or vegetable that it originally came from and is often preserved with chemicals that no one can pronounce.
Transitioning to a healthier diet of fruits, vegetables, meats, nut and seeds will help undo damage that has been caused by gluten by providing more nutrients that can help to bring your body back to a balanced state.
Personally, I had really bad eczema before going gluten free – I couldn’t even bear to wash my hands in the winter because they were so cracked and bleeding. After about 6 months, my eczema was about 80% gone. I also had chronic lower back pain, and found that it went away as well. Although it took over a year, my daughter’s distended belly went away and she started gaining weight and growing. Still, I can tell when she has the tiniest amount of gluten because her allergic shiners come back in about an hour.
Other people report weight loss – just from avoiding gluten. Most people report increased energy and the symptoms above disappearing.
How Can I Avoid Gluten?
If you have recently been diagnosed with Celiac disease, then you need to stop eating gluten containing products right away and let your body start to heal. Bone broths and homemade soup are excellent for healing your gut. A word of caution, though… Plan to go through a “withdrawal” for about a week. You may experience intense cravings for wheat products, irritability, and headaches.
If you aren’t Celiac, then it may be easier to start by cutting out gluten at one meal, or cutting out all gluten at home. There are so many ways to transition – find the best way to make it easy on yourself.
Generally safe foods
All raw fruits, vegetables, meats, bean, nuts and seeds are inherently gluten free. (Even pure sugar is gluten free. Not that I would recommend eating spoonful’s of sugar!)
Generally safe grains
Rice, quinoa, corn, buckwheat, amaranth, millet, sorghum and teff are inherently gluten free. Oats are also naturally gluten free, but are often grown close to wheat and/or cross contaminated. There are “certified” gluten free oats if you have Celiac. In baking, you can also use bean flours, like fava, chickpea, pea and soy flour. In addition, you can use nut flours or vegetable starches, like arrowroot, potato, and tapioca.
What foods are high in gluten
The highest gluten containing food is spaghetti – durum wheat has 3% more of the gluten protein than common wheat. Of course, everything made with white or wheat flour is high in gluten. Gluten is also found in barley, rye and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye).
Check out the following posts to find out more about how you can make the change to a Healthy Gluten Avoider!