What’s in a Name?
I know I have openly expressed my undying love for quinoa, especially this quinoa/corn flour pasta. It cooks al dente perfectly and the texture and taste is better than regular pasta. And my gift on Valentine’s day was preparing pesto, perfectly. Usually I’m not 100% happy, but something happened and it was exactly the way I wanted it to taste. The downside, I didn’t measure a single thing. Most pesto recipes are pretty basic and you can omit the parmesan cheese for a vegan meal (or raw if you use zucchini noodles-more on these another time). So…you know I like gluten-free foods, but…what the heck is gluten anyway?
Let’s review: GLUTEN
What: The gluten we are talking about is a primary component of grains such as barley, rye, oats, and especially wheat, that is responsible for the elastic texture of dough. Gluten is also part of spelt, durum, semonlina, kamut, couscous, and triticale grains. (Corn and rice gluten are not the same as wheat gluten). Gluten can also be found in modified food starch, MSG, lecithins, textured vegetable protein (think veggie burgers, or any fake meat), emulsifiers, soy sauce (most of it contains wheat; you have to use wheat-free tamari instead), prescription and over-the-counter drugs, even some vitamins. A full-blown allergy to gluten is called celiac disease and it’s believed that 1 in 33 people are afflicted, maybe more. Wheat is one of the top 7 food allergens in diet. One of the first things physicians do when a person has a digestive issue is to remove wheat, dairy and sugar from their diet. Imagine the sticky texture of dough, and then imagine that glue in your intestines. It does not present a pretty picture.
How: Gluten can affect a person in hundreds of ways; irritability and mood issues, depression, weight fluctuation, digestive issues, migraines, restless leg syndrome, unknown iron deficiency, hair loss and many others. Although celiac disease is known to affect the small intestine, it is a multisystem disorder and can involve other organs such as the skin, thyroid, pancreas, heart, liver, joints, muscles, bones, the reproductive system, and the central and peripheral nervous systems. In celiac sufferers, gluten causes severe inflammation and damages the mucosal surface of the small intestine and disrupts the absorption of nutrients. It can eventually lead to inflammation throughout the body and even organ damage. Children with celiac can even present an issue with responsiveness to the hepatitis B vaccine. Those with type 1 diabetes have 2 to 7 times the prevalence of celiac, though type 2 are not affected any more so than the general population.
In the small intestine, gluten triggers the release of zonulin, a protein that regulates the tight junctions between epithelial cells and therefore intestinal, but also blood-brain barrier function. Recent evidence suggests that overstimulation of zonulin in susceptible individuals could dysregulate intercellular communication promoting tumorigenesis at specific organ sites. Paleo-type diets, (that exclude grain products), have been shown to improve glycemic control and cardiovascular risk factors more effectively than typically recommended low-fat diets rich in whole grains. [Carb Restriction and Cancer Study]. Studies even state that migraine sufferers benefit from a gluten-free diet. Damage to the small intestine affects nutrient absorption which can lead to iron and calcium deficiencies.
This may be a bit more information than you bargained for. If you’re interested in seeing if gluten-free may ease some of your issues, I am doing Gluten-Free March. Stay tuned!