A presentation for those with no previous knowledge on the topic of gluten-free diets. Exploration includes what, why and how to make a decision on whether it’s a diet or lifestyle change that can benefit anyone, or just those who are intolerant.
Gluten seems like a general term lately, but it really has a pretty specific meaning. It is the cohesive and elastic protein composite of other proteins called glutenins and gliadins, These get broken down into smaller proteins called “peptides,” which have a specific amino acid sequence. Gluten resides in the species of wheat, rye, spelt, and barley and all the of foods that are so commonly processed from them. Also, it is what gives certain foods such as bread a chewy texture, as well as help it rise. According to A medical director, AlessioFasano of The University of Maryland’s Center for Celiac Research, nobody can properly digest gluten.”These foods include more items than one may think. Everything made from flour (wheat), or even processed in the same facility has the potential to be gluten-laden. This means baked goods such as breads, bagels, pastries, pizza dough, pretzels, cakes, cereals, and even processed sauces and meats can contain gluten. Image from http://wheat.pw.usda.gov/ggpages/topics/Celiac.vs.grains.html (created into a jpeg onto my computer and transferred to the slide)
Despite the recent trends, gluten free dieting has been around for many years, specifically due to chronic illness associated with eating gluten. Celiac disease, the most serious of gluten-related illnesses is an autoimmune disease that causes the small intestine to become inflamed. It will attack it’s own intestinal tissue, which leads to the degradation of the micro-villi that line the intestine. When this happens, so does malabsorption, which leads to malnutrition. There are a plethora of horrible things that come from malnutrition, especially in this way. Just a few include muscle deterioration, fatigue, bowel problems (diarrhea), infertility, anemia, and many other problems. Gluten intolerance and gluten sensitivity are often interchanged terms, but they do have a slight differentiation from one another. Generally, intolerance will be more severe (and symptoms will last longer) than a sensitivity. Both arise from just what it sounds like, either a complete intolerance of gluten products, or a sensitivity to them relating to the inflammation of the small intestine. However, unlike Celiac reactions, the lining is not attacked. Results are not nearly as dramatic as they are in Celiac disease, but can also be devastating and uncomfortable. For example, bloating, discomfort, headaches, lethargy and diarrhea to name a few.
In the United States, gluten free has rightfully retained the title of being a “trend.” While this may be true, that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing as the title denotes. As you can see from the pie chart, eating this way has been slowly increasing in the past few years. 2010 to 2011, eating gluten free went up one half a percentage point, yet from 2011 to 2012 went up a staggering 2.7 percent. Although the results can’t be determined for the entire year of 2013, sources such as the Gluten Intolerance Group predict that these numbers will rise. Although most of individuals tend to feel a resistance to trends such as this one, it’s hard to find a reason to fight against it. Of course many do not identify with any sort of gluten intolerance (a great thing), but the absence of these foods is not necessarily a bad thing. Following slides will explain this in more detail. However, with what we now know, thinking about the products that contain gluten – are they more likely to hurt or help us with our dietary needs? Depending on how each individual substitutes the absence of processed and gluten-laden foods depends on how the restriction will either benefit or harm them.
Now that we have deciphered what gluten is, and that it can in fact be beneficial, lets discuss how to do it properly. The images shown in this slide are the incorrect items to eat on a gluten free diet. When we hear about the few individuals who decided to follow a gluten free diet without researching the proper way to do so, these are the products they tend to eat, thinking that because it says “gluten free” on the box, it’s healthy. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Eating products that are void of wheat, rye and barley but still filled with sugar, fat, or lacking in proper vitamin and minerals is the perfect way to give the gluten free lifestyle the wrong image. Of course, just like in everyone’s diet, there comes a time where we crave the familiar, starchy sweet goodness of dessert or another favorite. Restricting ourselves too fully tends to be unhealthy in the long run, so these products are a good alternate for those times. The point, is to not use them as a substitute in every meal.
This slide depicts not only what a healthy gluten-free diet looks like, but also what is generally described as a healthy diet that is void of heavy, processed starches. Examples include lean meats and protein, seeds, nuts, and of course, an abundance of fruits and vegetables. One noticeable difference between this healthy slide compared with the last slide, are the lack of boxes and colorful packaging. It’s not a rule of thumb necessarily, but most things that take extra time and money to package up and catch the consumer’s eye is not usually something they should be interested in. Clearly, this looks like a presentation on a clean and healthy diet. However, these are all also foods that are void of gluten. Keep this in mind when asked the question, “can a gluten free diet be a good diet for anyone?”
Wheat is getting a bad reputation as new science and research emerges. An article by Discovery news that includes research by the University of Maryland stated, “Unlike fruits, which are meant to be eaten, grains have a way of fighting back. They create an immunogenic response which increases intestinal permeability, thus triggering systemic inflammation by the immune system — what can lead to any number of autoimmune diseases, including celiac, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, and so on. And this holds true for people who don't have celiac disease.” Wheat also tends to have an addicting effect, which is why wheat products are so prevalent in our American diets. Another important note on the production of wheat is stemmed from cardiologist Dr. William Davis’s book Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find Your Path Back to Health. He explains the hybridization of wheat crops, and how we now have to worry about toxins as well as increased processing and higher gluten content.
Many get confused with the difference of whole grains and wheat. Although there is risk of contamination, not all whole grains contain gluten those that do not are easy to cook with and are part of a balanced diet. Examples include Brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat. Not only do they contain massive amounts of fiber and good protein, they are less processed than wheat and wheat flours tend to be.
When eating gluten free, it’s important to realize that you are automatically eating less processed foods, as long as you aren’t buying the types of food substitutes that were previously mentioned. A gluten free dieter will naturally be consuming more fruits, vegetables, nuts, and wholesome proteins. Because of this, not only does the occurrence of fatigue and related issues decrease, most individuals have better energy, stamina and overall health. Remember the slide on the proper foods to eat in a gluten free diet – not only is it void of wheat, rye, barley and spelt, but also resembles a balanced diet that we’ve seen and been taught before. As an isolated example, if we are used to eating a few slices from a loaf of bread with our salad at dinner and replace it with quinoa, there is a slew of health benefits. There is less fat, more protein, more fiber, and less starch. Imagine that on a larger scale!There are many arguments for nutrients that are not consumed when eating a gluten free diet. However, it’s the same in ANY diet, good or bad. If you do it properly, you will obtain every nutrient you need. Fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, good fats (omegas), and an intense amount of micronutrients are all consumed through a proper gluten-free diet. As a matter of fact, one would get more of these benefits with a gluten free diet than with a diet that contains enriched wheat products that fill you with simple carbohydrates, saturated fats and incomplete proteins. It’s also important to remember that there is nothing that is good for everyone. Tweaking diets to work for the individual is an important aspect of eating healthfully.