Health Resources

Gluten Savvy

Currently there is a continuing debate among various experts as to whether the removal of gluten containing products assists in weight loss through reduction of inflammation, or just simple carbohydrate and calorie reduction.  There is no doubt that the reduction of simple sugar and processed carbohydrates are factors towards better weight management.  When  digestive symptoms persist, reducing or eliminating gluten certainly makes sense.

Overview

Gluten is a protein which is contained in certain grains.  It is what gives flour the ability to stick together. Gluten is hard for digestive enzymes to break down due to unusually high Proline concentration.  A current health trend is to limit or avoid wheat and gluten due to a spectrum of unresolved and presumed to be related health issues. Gluten may affect nerves, muscles, mind, skin, blood disorders, and/or cause hormonal related consequences (including fertility).

Imagining life without favorite comfort foods, such as pasta, bread, cereal and cookies, poses challenges for many people.  The reality is that ~ 3 million Americans  are diagnosed with autoimmune Celiac disease.  Growing awareness of the condition, combined with consumer demand, has also increased the number and availability of gluten-free products in recent years. While people with Celiac disease have little choice but to avoid gluten, others may be avoiding gluten in an effort to trim pounds. Reducing gluten may not be the best or only way to lose weight but it is proven to be effective in many cases.

Gluten Free Foods

You can find many naturally gluten-free foods across food groups. It’s quite simple.  Unprocessed, whole foods, largely food that does not contain wheat or white flour are gluten free.   Eggs, milk, cheese and many yogurts are gluten-free. Among flours and grains, those made from almond, coconut, macadamia, amaranth, rice, corn, legumes, buckwheat, potato, quinoa, soybeans, tapioca and teff are safe. In the meat/fish/poultry category, choose from fresh, frozen or canned unprocessed versions without marinades (make your own).  Fillers & flavoring agents often accompany gluten.  Additionally, uncoated nuts and oils are gluten-free. Fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits and vegetables also are gluten-free. Take care to manage portion sizes to stay overall carbohydrate conscious.

Anytime you’re buying something canned or in a packaged form, such as a cheese spread or canned meat, check labels for gluten additives. Wheat and barley often are added to items such as ice cream, hot dogs, deli meat, or frozen or canned soups. Also beer, with and without alcohol, usually includes barley.

Hidden Gluten

Gluten is the common name for the proteins found in specific grains, and it is found in all forms of wheat. The acronym “BROW” (barley, rye, oat and wheat/white) may help recall gluten sources.

Examples of gluten-containing foods include breads, cookies, crackers, cake mixes, cereal, ice cream, packaged meats and cold cuts, pasta, and even soup broths and bouillon cubes. Koff says anyone with Celiac disease must also be cautious about purchasing products that were manufactured in facilities that also process gluten products. They’re often labeled with statements such as “contains wheat ingredients” or “made on shared equipment that also processes wheat.”

Technically oats do not naturally contain gluten.  They’re often grown near fields of wheat and rye, and farmers may rotate the fields. Those that need to avoid gluten should include oats only from certified gluten-free sources.

Inner Impacts

Gluten stimulates the immune system with a corresponding attack on the the small intestine. Digestive health is impaired reducing the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients.  Additionally it may throw off the fluid balance resulting in gas and bloating.  Chronic fatigue, weight loss/gain, abdominal pain, bloating, constipation or diarrhea are other consequences.  Gluten may impact other autoimmune conditions, immune health overall and brain health. Autoimmune diseases, such as Fibromyalgia, Hashimotos Thyroiditis, Type 1 Diabetes, Crohn’s disease, Ulcerative Colitis and Rheumatoid Arthritis, show positive improvement when removing gluten from the diet

In addition to those with full-blown Celiac disease, some people have non-Celiac gluten sensitivity. Additional symptoms of gluten intolerance are similar to CD, show up as behavior changes, bone and joint pain, muscle cramps, leg numbness.  European studies show 16-25% Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) cases parallel a 28% occurrence of gluten intolerance. Symptoms are similar to  Celiac, with the most typical symptoms being gas, bloating and irritable bowel.  More than 20 million people supposedly face the consequences of non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.  By the time blood tests reveal the presence of gluten antibodies, up to 40% of the intestines may be affected.

No Magic Bullet

With all the hype of gluten’s negative aspects, people who aren’t particularly sensitive to it but are simply looking to lose weight may give up foods containing gluten in hopes of shedding pounds. Notably gluten-free selections do not automatically result in weight loss.  In the end it depends on what gluten-free foods you eat and coordinating internal balance.  Merely substituting gluten-free food versions makes long-term weight loss unlikely.

Following a gluten savvy path while focusing on limiting processed carbs like pasta, packaged foods, cereal, desserts, bread and thickened gravy, soups and marinades, also impacts hormones and metabolism. Choosing to instead include more vegetables, lean meats, fruits, fish and low-fat dairy products definitely impacts weight loss and or body compositions  Add and manage  healthy carbohydrate choices such as amaranth, buckwheat, legumes, teff, quinoa. Reducing carbohydrates that convert to sugar quickly (rice and potatoes) and replacing with whole foods will yield greater chance of dropping pounds.

Nutrition Savvy

If you don’t have Celiac Disease, becoming gluten savvy while improving the quality of foods you eat will take the edge off.  Truth told, the proposed pros of gluten containing foods, for example whole-grain breads and cereals for fiber and added B vitamins have a small benefit.

Instead of gravitating to becoming a label reading expert you are better served to limit your processed foods all together.  Simply put, products that have many ingredients are also processed and include added chemicals/preservative.  A rule of thumb would be to focus on single time ingredients and avoid those ingredients that you can’t pronounce. Reducing starchy and sugar containing foods makes a fast difference. Moderation and knowing that you are welcome to eat again in a few hours helps you stay the course.  Wholesome eating, including fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, legumes,  nuts and seeds, offer a lot of variety and nutrient richness.