Gluten avoidance has been a contentious subject, becoming the butt of many jokes. However, for many, the issues caused by gluten and wheat products are laughing matter. Unfortunately, many people feel the pressure to succumb to eating wheat products out of fear of being perceived as annoying or just appearing to be fussy with their food choices.
So, the question on everyone’s lips is, should I be avoiding gluten if I do not have coeliacs disease?
The answer is not straightforward. For myself, I like to say I am gluten selective. I will definitely consume gluten, but I have a series of rigorous requirements before it gets my tick of approval.
Signs and symptoms
Many of us may connect symptoms of intolerance directly to gut distress but let’s not forget the intimate connection that exists between the gut and the mind, leading to many neurological symptom pictures.
- Mood changes
- Brain fog
- Abdominal pain
After consuming gluten, being self-aware of any changes in your body, especially those listed above, can give you a good indication if you should currently be ingesting gluten. Try eating a good quality organic sourdough and see how you feel afterwards. This will give a true depiction if wheat is causing you distress.
Why you should avoid gluten
- Gluten and wheat products can be detrimental in neuropsychiatric cases, such as depression and anxiety, as they can cause gut irritation and inflammation resulting in heightened symptoms.
- Gluten has also been shown to increase tight gap junctions in the gut resulting in leaky gut which can lead to many different etiologies, including many autoimmune conditions. Therefore, reducing or removing gluten from your diet in autoimmune conditions is extremely important to improving outcomes.
- It has been suggested that some symptoms of autism spectrum disorder may be caused by opioid peptides formed from the incomplete breakdown of gluten.
- Hormonal imbalances can be heightened by gut issues as hormones are processed through the gut.
- Another factor to consider is avoiding gluten that is not organic and is unfermented (see why below).
Where did we go wrong?
Much of the time it is not gluten that is the problem and, in many cases, some gluten-free products are in fact more detrimental than eating a wheat-filled product. Take a look at these ingredient lists below for two different store-bought pizza bases.
Non-gluten free pizza base: Organic sourdough starter, salt, organic flour.
Gluten-free pizza base: Maize Starch, Milk Solids Non-Fat, Rice Flour, Thickener Maize (1422), Mineral Salts (575, 500), Besan Flour, Vegetables Oil, Iodised Salt, Food Acid (297), Preservatives (282), Vegetable Gums (461, 412), Emulsifier (471), Filtered Water.
Why are we seeing a high prevalence of coeliac disease and non-coeliac gluten sensitivity?
Many wheat products are genetically modified, meaning our gut doesn’t break down this version of a gluten protein. Numerous people report that when they travel to Europe they have no issue with pasta and pizza and this is due to the fact that Europeans use heritage wheat which has not been genetically modified.
The majority of wheat products are now heavily sprayed with pesticides and also known to be heavily sprayed with glyphosate (i.e. Roundup). This can be the causing factor in reactions seen with wheat ingestion. A recent study proposed that glyphosate, not gluten, was the causal factor in many of the reactions seen with coeliacs and gluten intolerance.
Products that are not properly prepared can also cause reactions, as quick preparation can leave them filled with high amounts of hard to digest plant materials. A great option here is sourdough as these digestive irritants can easily be broken down through the fermentation process.
The high amounts of additives and preservatives now added to products can also cause similar reactions seen in gluten intolerance.
Non-coeliac gluten sensitivity is also seen in histamine intolerance.
How can we begin to heal?
It is important to heal the gut if you have been consistently ingesting wheat products, especially if they are the non-organic and non-fermented type.
Through a naturopathic approach, we begin by investigating the source of the problem then directing the treatment towards healing and sealing the gut and correcting any dysbiosis in the gut.
It is important to choose good quality products to prevent future issues and gut distress. In terms of consuming wheat products, the best practice is to choose organic, non-GMO, sourdough products. These are becoming increasingly easier to find and there is a plethora of sourdough recipes available on the internet. And these rules should not just apply to wheat! We should have the same standards for all the food we consume to prevent disease and heal our bodies.
We have created a number of excellent products and services to help you understand the importance of good gut health and to heal your gut. Want to assess your gut health? Take our quiz now!
Written by Ally Stewart BHSc
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