True Gluten Free Benefits
As we mentioned in the recipe for delicious Grain Free Gluten Free Focaccia Flatbread, being “conventionally gluten free” really does not cut it. The gluten free industry has really exploded in the last few years and there are heaps of processed foods available in health food stores and supermarkets purporting to be gluten free. But do these products give you true gluten free benefits?
What Is Gluten?
Gluten is an umbrella term for the family of proteins found in all grains. So a different member of the gluten family will be found in wheat, rye, barley and oats, just as easily as it will be found in white, brown or black rice, corn, amaranth, millet, sorghum, teff, quinoa, buckwheat, spelt, einkorn or emmer.
Below is a list of various grains, the primary form of gluten and % of total protein 
GRAIN GLUTEN PROTEIN % of TOTAL PROTEIN
- Wheat Gliadin 69
- Rye Secalin 30-50
- Barley Hordein 46-52
- Oats Avenin 12-16
- Corn Zein 55
- Sorghum Kafirin 52
- Millet Panicin 40
- Teff Penniseiten 11
- Rice Oryzenin 5
Whilst wheat, rye, barley and oats are the traditional grains to avoid when people go “gluten free”, you can clearly see that all grains have a form of gluten and some of the percentages of total protein are quite high, such as corn, sorghum and millet.
You might think that a test for gluten sensitivity would be conclusive as to whether or not someone has a problem with gluten. The trouble is that because there are so many different forms of gluten they are not all tested for. In fact, generally most tests will only be for the gliadin protein in wheat, which, unsurprisingly at 69% of total protein, is usually what most people will be sensitive to.
Wheat is also in the vast majority of breads, cakes, biscuits, pastas and breakfast cereals, so it is easy to see why this would be affecting most people. If barley, rye and oats were capable of being used in so many forms of food as wheat is, then the forms of gluten in them would probably be the forms that caused the most gluten sensitivities. But as we know, it is gliadin that has that distinction.
Gastro Intestinal Symptoms
So what happens if you have any of the increasingly common GI symptoms such as indigestion, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting, reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and you get back a negative gluten sensitivity test? Does this mean that eating wheat, rye, barley etc is not a problem for you and the reason for your symptoms lies elsewhere? Not at all. It simply means that you do not have sensitivity to the form of gluten that was being tested for, and you may well have been positive if the test had covered other forms as well.
Based on this scenario, just imagine how many patients will have been told that gluten is not the problem. These poor patients will have continued with their usual diet, making their conditions worse every day, and been placed on all sorts of other medications to treat their symptoms, but not deal with the underlying cause of those symptoms.
What Is Wrong With Gluten Free Products?
Since going gluten free has generally been accepted to mean excluding wheat, rye, barley and oats, the “gluten free” products on the shelves of health food stores and supermarkets do exclude those but NOT the other grains and so you will not get the true gluten free benefits.
If you look at the ingredients on these products, you will usually find corn, millet and/or some of the other grains, but also you will often find soy and various starches. As you can see from the list above corn and millet have high percentages of total gluten protein, so if you do test positive to a “gluten” sensitivity and/or you are trying to improve your health by going gluten free, many of these products are not helping you obtain the true gluten free benefits.
In addition, the ingredients in these products are not usually organic and will have been heavily sprayed with insecticide, herbicide and fungicide. As if that is not enough, the vast majority of grains, whether organic or not, all suffer from molds or mycotoxins that have developed during the storage phase in those giant silos you see dotted around cereal growing farmland. This alone is a very good reason not to consume grains.
Of course truly gluten free products do exist, but you will need to read the ingredients to know for sure. Please do not believe something is gluten free simply because it says so on the packaging or on a restaurant menu – read the small print on the packaging or ask the restaurant what the ingredients are!
Who Should Try to Enjoy True Gluten Free Benefits?
You would be forgiven for thinking that a problem with gluten is confined to gut symptoms. After all, it is a food source so surely if it disagrees with you, your gut would be the main place affected. This is certainly the commonly held view by the general public and by main stream doctors and medical practitioners.
In the functional medicine world this is not the case. Dr Peter Osborne in his recent book, “No Grain, No Pain,” lists a lot of symptoms that most people would never normally associate with gluten. But when you realise that prolonged exposure to something that is causing an immune response, leading to inflammation and a hyper-immune response over time, then you can see how in fact gluten sensitivity is actually leading to autoimmune dysfunction in the body.
This can affect any part of the body and will usually occur first in your particular weak spot. This weak spot will be dictated to some degree by genetics, but also by previous infections, diseases and lifestyle choices. Here are just some of the possible areas affected:-
- Gut Symptoms – craving, cakes, cookies, baked goods; craving sugary foods; indigestion, bloating, gas, constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting, reflux, irritable bowel syndrome.
- Head & Nervous System Symptoms – frequent headaches or migraines; congested sinuses; vertigo; poor memory, brain fog, difficulty concentrating; ADD or ADHD; depression, anxiety; mood swings; chronic fatigue syndrome; multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s.
- Muscle & Joint Symptoms – frequent joint or muscle pain with or without activity; muscle spasms (especially legs); fibromyalgia; arthritis (any form); lupus; osteoporosis or osteopenia.
- Hormonal Symptoms – Always fatigued; unable to lose weight; difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep; unable to conceive; history of miscarriage; menstrual problems or PMS; thyroid disease; type 1 or 2 diabetes; polycystic ovary syndrome; endometriosis.
- Immune Symptoms – chronic urinary tract infections or respiratory infections; asthma; yeast infections.
- Skin Problems – Fever blisters & mouth ulcers; skin rash; eczema; psoriasis.
- Other Diseases/Problems – gallbladder problems; elevated liver enzymes; non-alcoholic fatty liver; autoimmune hepatitis; lymphoma; blood platelet disorders.
So if you or a family member has two or more of any of the above on a regular basis, then please consider trialing a no grain diet for 30 days and seeing what happens to your symptoms. Then you will experience the true gluten free benefits. As Dr Osborne says:-
Gluten sensitivity leads to hyper-immune response, which results in inflammation and pain, which can appear in almost any part of the body.
In the very considerable clinical experience of Dr Osborne over nearly three decades, he says that he has never seen a patient whose symptoms have not improved considerably by avoiding all grains for 30 days. He goes on to say that experiencing relief from symptoms that have often persisted for a very long time, is enough to convince his patients to continue with this change to their lifestyle.
At CoolWellbeing Foundation we do not have any of the above symptoms, but nor do we want to acquire them, so we stay away from all grains as much as possible, eating only the very occasional rice or quinoa and avoiding all other grains. Our carbohydrates come from vegetables including different varieties of sweet potatoe. We do make “breads” like the delicious naan bread pictured above, but these contain no gluten containing ingredients like almond flour, ground linseeds, coconut flour, banana flour etc. Why not give it a go and experience true gluten free benefits?
Striving for optimal health, Edith and Tim at CoolWellbeing Foundation
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