The Gluten-Free Glitch
As a nutritionist, I observe a lot of different habits, patterns, and beliefs around food. One that is particularly fascinating to me right now is the issue of gluten. It is unarguably one of the greatest inflammatory triggers in our food supply today. Research says so, not just me! In lieu of that, awareness around gluten sensitivity is also getting much more common which is a good thing. Truth be told, most folks ARE gluten sensitive. What does this mean? Well, it means that the gluten protein inflames them in some way shape or form that they may OR may not even realize. What are signs of gluten sensitivity? Well, it may make someone feel bloated, gassy, fat, puff, achey, break out, feel cranky & foggy, headaches and the list could go on. Worst of all, gluten has an affinity for inflaming the central nervous system, ie, the brain. Add to that, a great affinity for inflaming your gut too. It is great that with all of this recently publicized information people are finally going after gluten-free options. However, there is an interesting dynamic I am watching coincide with it and people are making some unfortunate assumptions:
- ASSUMPTION #1 – Gluten Free = Sugar, Calorie, Carb Free
- ASSUMPTION #2 – Gluten Free = Sensitivity Free
#1 GLUTEN FREE = SUGAR, CARB & CALORIE FREE
So, in lieu of all of this, many folks are going gluten-free and feeling good about it. However, as they hop on the gluten-free bandwagon they go to town! They don’t just have ONE gluten-free cookie....they gobble up the BOX. Or they’ve just discovered gluten-free brownies mix, and eat the whole batch in one day. The reaction I get from them is, “well, at least it was gluten-free”. My response, “Hold your horses, wise guy. Not so fast”. Gluten-free items still contain refined sugars, preservatives and just as many calories and carbs if you want to get into that crazy counting game. In my practice, most folks don’t even participate in packaged items after we get rolling in our process together. They learn how to think “outside the box”, meaning away from packaged foods and instead nourish themselves from the ground up.
#2 GLUTEN FREE = SENSITIVITY FREE
This assumption is a biggie I see over and over with folks who are gluten sensitive. I deal with a lot of serious immune/inflammatory conditions in my practice and this is a very critical issue for those conditions. You see, gluten cross-reacts with other “gluten-free” grains and foods. So, just because it may say “Gluten Free” does NOT mean it is a free ride of not triggering an inflammatory/immune response. The immune system recognizes shapes of things it encounters in the body. In the case of gluten sensitivity, molecules with similar shapes to gluten may cause the body to launch the same immune reaction that it does when it encounters gluten. This is called a “cross-reactivity”. Does it mean that you have to avoid ALL cross-reactive foods listed? No, ONLY if you are sensitive to them. How do you find out if you are sensitive to the cross reactors? There are special tests that can be ordered to reveal your cross-reactors. Additionally, you can also do a specific type of elimination diet to eliminate and reveal your cross-reactors. I guide people through both of these processes in my practice. Here are the 19 foods that cross-react with gluten:
• Dairy ie Milk and Cheese (Alpha-Casein, Beta-Casein, Casomorphin, Butyrophilin, Whey)
• Polish wheat
See, you don’t have to fall prey to the gluten-free glitch. Get smart and get informed. Are you eating copious amounts of gluten-free products? Are you eating gluten-free products that are silently inflaming you due to your unique inflammatory response to a cross reactor? Hopefully, this brief article has given you something to think about. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out!
Be well and thrive!