If you can’t quite comprehend why you haven’t been able to lose that belly fat, are feeling as sluggish as a sloth on cold medication, have body aches or all of the above, there’s a good chance you are having adverse effects to gluten. If you have to ask yourself “what is gluten?” chances are you’ve been treating your stomach like a trash bin, loading up on an assortment of refined and processed carbohydrates. Your rolls could be giving you rolls and that is not the way we want our diet to give back now, is it?
“GLUTEN FREE” is more than a popular buzz word to push products. I know firsthand the effects of gluten sensitivities, as do seven out of 10 people according to recent studies. Chances are, you could be suffering from a gluten sensitivity/intolerance and not even know it. So even if you don’t have Celiac disease, gluten sensitivities are nothing to sneeze about! Let’s break down what gluten is, how it may be affecting your fitness and ways to find out for yourself if you are struggling with a form of gluten intolerance or are experiencing sensitivities to it. I promise to make this fun and to keep my humour corny (and therefore, gluten-free).
“Gluten is a protein-like substance processed from wheat and wheat-related grains such as barley and rye.”
WHAT IS GLUTEN AND WHO IS SUFFERING FROM SOME FORM OF INTOLERANCE?
Gluten is a protein-like substance processed from wheat and wheatrelated grains such as barley and rye. It’s used primarily in dough to give bread its shape and chewy texture. There is an abundance of this stuff in a lot of your favorite foods, from bread to grandma’s homemade cookies, to pizza, pasta, beer, pancakes, dressings and even some protein bars.
These are your refined carbohydrates, stripped of fibre and vitamins and lacking nutritional value. While gluten itself is not considered a high-fat or high-calorie food, it’s often used in extremely unhealthy foods like pies and cookies. When we eat grains and gluten, our bodies get a quick rise in blood glucose. To make up for this, our bodies release insulin into our bloodstream to lower those blood glucose levels. Too much of this stuff and belly fat, galore!
I have what’s known as a (nonceliac) gluten intolerance and I know from my own experience that once I made the switch from gluten-filled foods to gluten- free foods, I was leaner, I could see veins in my abs, my skin was clear, I had more clarity and felt like I could conquer the world. Before, when I would eat a lot of wheat breads and pastas, I’d be irritable, break out in rashes and feel sluggish. I am not the only one adopting the gluten-free lifestyle. Super Bowl winning MVP quarterback Drew Brees, Oprah, Gwyneth Paltrow and Jenny McCarthy, to name a few, are among the list of people seeing great results!
People suffering from a wide range of diseases have also found instant benefits from going gluten-free. From autism to osteoporosis to diabetes and even rheumatoid arthritis, these conditions can often benefit from a change to a gluten-free diet. Even people with no health issues have a great deal to gain by giving up gluten! The gluten-free diet can help with weight management; it can elevate your energy levels, improve your attention span and speed up your digestion. It is also well documented that people with Celiac Disease have an intolerance to gluten, causing severe reactions such as inflammation in the small intestine, poor nutrient absorption, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, anemia, and fatigue. If you have experienced any of these reactions to gluten, it would be a good idea to call your doctor. It is noted that a very small percentage of the human population can eat all the gluten they want and not have an adverse effect to it.
DO I HAVE GLUTEN SENSITIVITIES?
As simple as it sounds, an easy way to discover how your body may be reacting to gluten is to spend the next even days going cold turkey. No gluten. Take a before picture, measurements etc. Do the same thing again once the week is over. During your glutenfree week, set aside two minutes out of your day to write down your current mood or feeling. “I am tired, sluggish, full of energy, happy as a clam or whatever it is you are feeling. Also answer the following question; how is my current state of mind? Once the week is over, analyze your results. If all of the arrows point down the gluten-free road, then I would suggest following that path. If completely gluten-free seems too hard, even cutting back can make a significant difference.
I HAVE A GLUTEN SENSITIVITY AND/OR INTOLERANCE. NOW WHAT?
Unfortunately, removing gluten completely from your diet is no easy task. Grains are used in the preparation of many foods and it’s often hard to tell by a food’s name what its ingredients are. In other words, it’s easy to eat gluten without even knowing it. The gluten-free industry has skyrocketed and we are now seeing more and more people pick up on the reality of needing to cut gluten out. There are foods classified as “power grains” that are awesome and packed with nothing but goodness; foods like quinoa, buckwheat, millet, teff, sorghum, wild rice and amaranth. Quinoa pasta makes a great alternative for spaghetti and it’s packed with protein. Include these power grains into your diet for your source of carbohydrates, along with lentils, legumes and sweet potatoes. Don’t forget to add your green, leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli, spinach, bok-choy for your veggie sources as they are also gluten-free.
In all honesty, I still have raw steel cut oats in my shake every morning because it’s fast, full of good complex carbs, fibre and only has traces of gluten in it. Unlike many other grains, the proteins found in oats may even be safe for people with celiac disease. Imagine that? Adding oats as part of a gluten-free diet can also add texture and satiety that may be missing for those who can’t consume most grain products, but there’s still controversy regarding whether oats are truly safe for those whose bodies can’t handle gluten. (Crosscontamination and the presence of proteins similar to gluten are potential problems when considering whether oats are truly gluten-free.)
In addition, some of my favorite gluten-free go to protein bars are Jay Robb, Perfect Foods and Think Thin. For late night cravings and bedtime protein, I really like cottage cheese, casein protein powder or MHP’s protein pudding. All of which are gluten- free. My personal favorite is the pudding, hands down. Some of the alternatives are so good, that we will need to remind ourselves that moderation is key. Even if something is healthy, you still need to police those portions and keep them in check.
The one common mistake I see most glutenfree lovers make is chowing down and eating boat loads of food under the assumption that because it’s gluten free, they can just go to town and eat whatever they want. Remember that the first bite tastes the same as the 15th bite and too much of anything will make you fat, sluggish and slower than a herd of turtles stampeding through peanut butter. You can’t let a gluten-free diet trick you into eating unhealthy meals or creating unhealthy habits.
Beware! The following words on food labels often mean that a grain containing gluten has been used: stabilizer, starch, flavoring, emulsifier, hydrolyzed, plant protein. Watch when you shop the inner aisles of your supermarket, as they tend to be filled with products containing gluten. Do not fear, it is still possible to find plenty of items to fill your cart: fruits, vegetables, Asian rice noodles (with the exception of being made in a wheatfree factory), rice crackers, plain rice, wild rice, buckwheat, quinoa, tomato sauce, dried beans and legumes, nuts, spices and herbs, corn starch, tapioca, honey, jams and preserves, peanut butter, vinegars, and cooking oil.
NOW, YOU HAVE BEEN SET (GLUTEN) FREE!
Be sure to eat lots of vegetables and take a good multi-vitamin, as those on a gluten-free diet can experience a lack of vitamins and fibre. Gluten-free goods aren’t cheap, but it’s a personal investment that will definitely pay immediate dividends. I hope you didn’t mind all my corny jokes; but hey, at least they were gluten-free! Now, pass the maple syrup for my gluten-free waffles!
There are foods classified as “power grains” that are awesome and packed with nothing but goodness; foods like quinoa, buckwheat, millet, teff, sorghum, wild rice and amaranth.
People with Celiac Disease have an intolerance to gluten, causing severe reactions such as inflammation in the small intestine, poor nutrient absorption, diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloating, anemia and fatigue.
• Keep your eyes peeled when heading down that grocery aisle, as the following terms found on your food labels may suggest there is gluten in the product:
• Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP), unless made from soy or corn. Personally, I would stay away from all unfermented soy.
• Flour or Cereal products, unless made with pure rice flour, corn flour, potato flour or soy flour.
• Vegetable Protein, unless made from soy or corn.
• Malt or Malt Flavoring, unless derived from corn.
• Modified Starch or Modified Food Starch, unless arrowroot, corn, potato, tapioca, waxy maize or maize is used.
• Vegetable Gum, unless made from carob bean, locust bean, cellulose, guar, gum arabic, gum aracia, gum tragacanth, xantham or vegetable starch.
• Soy Sauce or Soy Sauce Solids, unless you know they do not contain wheat.
By Ray Wetterlund III