Gluten Free Products:  Life Changing for Many

gluten-free-healthyAs a consumer, I bet you are increasingly seeing shelves in stores of all kinds getting more and more populated with products the prominently display “gluten-free” on the label. It seems as if gluten is the new “bad boy” in many of the foods we eat and supplements we take. With gluten intolerance being a health hot button, it is important to have a thorough understanding of what gluten is and how it impacts health.

Gluten is a family of proteins in wheat, barley, and rye. These gluten proteins are found in the mature seed of these cereal grasses, which is commonly referred to as the grain. Close relatives of wheat, such as spelt, triticale, kamut, farro, and einkorn, also contain gluten and must be avoided if on a gluten-free diet. While you may hear the term “gluten” used when talking about rice, this is not actually a gluten. Rice can be consumed on a gluten-free diet. Interestingly, oats don’t technically contain gluten, but they’re almost always cross-contaminated with wheat gluten when processed in the US. As a result, unless an oat-containing product is specifically labeled “gluten-free,” you should assume it contains gluten.

Since gluten is a storage protein found in cereal grass seeds, it’s not found in the young, green grasses that sprout from these seeds. Therefore, wheatgrass and barley grass are technically gluten-free.

While there are segments of people who must avoid eating gluten due to adverse reactions, gluten is not a “toxin” as the media has led us to believe. People with wheat allergies and those with Celiac disease must follow a strict gluten-free diet, as gluten triggers harmful reactions. Others who have tested negative for wheat allergy or Celiac disease but still find that eating wheat causes unpleasant side effects may have a non-immune gluten intolerance or a sensitivity to gluten.

Symptoms of Gluten Intolerance

Many who struggle with a gluten intolerance will often experience gas and bloating. Often, people who eat wheat products who do not have wheat allergies or Celiac disease may actually be reacting to a form of carbohydrate in the wheat called fructans, rather than the gluten protein itself. For these people, be aware that avoiding wheat and other gluten products containing gluten may alleviate uncomfortable side effects such as gas and bloating.

Furthermore, you must also understand, even if you do not have wheat allergies or Celiac disease, that consuming wheat does not cause damage to cells or trigger dangerous allergic reactions. Only people with wheat allergies or Celiac disease will experience these health issues. For everyone else, gluten is just one of many food proteins found in the normal diet. And neither is detrimental or essential to good health. In other words, if gluten doesn’t bother you, there’s no compelling reason to avoid it.

One compelling incentive to eliminate gluten is there are numerous empty-calorie, high-glycemic, processed snack foods that contains a significant amount of gluten. Foods with gluten and a high-glycemic index are especially problematic as these foods release sugar quickly into the bloodstream, causing a quick spike in energy that’s followed by a dramatic dip in blood sugar levels. This dip leads to hunger relatively soon after eating. When your staff talks about “gluten-free” foods, this is not an indication that a food is more natural, lower in calories or healthier.

Dozens of diseases have been linked to gluten. What is astonishing is that it is estimated that 99% of the people who have either gluten intolerance or celiac disease are never diagnosed. It is also estimated that as much as 15% of the US population is gluten intolerant. And 1 in 200 people are afflicted with Celiac Disease

Digestive Health Crucial for the Gluten Intolerant

If you are gluten intolerant or have celiac disease, you can promote healing from within by implementing dietary supplements into your nutrition routine. Begin a regimen that counteracts the damage done by gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Many who suffer from gluten intolerance or celiac disease often suffer in silence and, therefore, have significant internal damage. Nutritional dysfunction and malabsorption may be at critical levels. If your body can not properly break down and digest food, issues beyond the digestive health may occur. Bone density issues, reproductive problems and cancer are just a few examples in addition to the inability to absorb nutrients from food.

That said, you need to strongly consider enzyme products. A quality enzyme supplement won’t just help with gluten intolerance and celiac disease.  It should include enzymes that assist in the digestion of fats, carbohydrates, sugars, and other proteins. According to www.celiac.com, some enzymes can speed up the digestive processes that break down foods so you can properly absorb the nutrients. There are different types of enzymes, which break down specific molecules. For example, proteases (or proteolytic enzymes) break down proteins. DPP-IV (dipeptidyl peptidase IV) helps break down gluten peptides, which cause a destructive autoimmune reaction often encountered by people struggling with celiac disease. However, DPP-IV needs to be combined with other specific enzymes to be beneficial.  An enzyme product that contains a variety of proteases, amylase, cellulase, phytase, lactase, sucrase, (carbohydrates), and lipase (fats) is very beneficial. Keep in mind, for those with Celiac disease, enzymes cannot replace a diet free of gluten, although enzymes may help with hidden gluten.

When poorly digested proteins are negatively impacting your digestive system, a multistrain probiotic can also be very beneficial. Microflora, colonies of bacteria in the intestines, are associated with good health. However, any changes in intestinal health are associated with a weakened immune system, can leave your body vulnerable to yeast infections, inflammation and other digestive issues. In fact, studies have shown that those who have trouble digesting gluten have a poor ratio of good to bad microflora in the digestive tract. Therefore, including a broad-spectrum probiotic to your daily dietary supplement regimen will restore this balance and improve digestive health.

Consider probiotics that clearly state on the label that the beneficial bacteria is guaranteed to be alive in the numbers stated on the label to ensure an accurate number of live organisms in the product at the time of consumption. Additionally, ideally, the bacteria should be encapsulated in a coating, such as enteric coating, that will protect these “beneficial bugs” from stomach acid so that they reach your intestines alive and ready to go to work. Finally, probiotic products either need to be refrigerated or are shelf stable. Be sure to store your probiotic supplement accordingly.

Be patient when starting a gluten-free diet. It is important to understand that with time, patience and some creativity, there are many supplements and functional foods that are excellent. Switching to a gluten-free nutritional regimen is a big change. Like anything new, it takes some getting used to. With “gluten-free” getting so much attention, there is increased availability of a wide range of gluten-free products. Choose wisely and you will live a better quality of life!

 

About Mark Becker

Mark Becker has worked as a natural products sales and marketing executive for 15 years. He has written more than 250 articles and has hosted or been a guest on more than 500 radio shows. He obtained a bachelor's in journalism from Long Beach State University and did his master’s work in communications at Cal State Fullerton. For almost 30 years he has participated in numerous endurance events, including more than 150 triathlons of Olympic distance or longer, 100 marathons and numerous other events including ultramarathons and rough water swims from Alcatraz to the mainland. He has relied on a comprehensive dietary supplement and homeopathic regimen to support his athletic, professional and personal endeavors.

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