Gluten-free products have become common items on many a health-conscious buyer’s shopping list, and yet, very little is known about why exactly one is encouraged to avoid gluten.
While it is a given that gluten is particularly harmful for those who struggle with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, it may be having more of an impact on each of us than we fully realise. Because symptoms range from feeling tired or moody, to digestive issues and hormone imbalances, it is entirely possible that many people are walking around unaware of the impact gluten is having on their quality of life.
Ever heard the tale of someone feeling so much more energetic, alive, and balanced after giving up a certain food group? Feeling one way or another becomes normal to us when we feel it daily – it is often only in giving up certain substances that we can accurately compare the influence these substances may be having on us.
What’s all the fuss about?
To introduce why it is that gluten affects us (and more of us than we might think!), consider that the gut is made of microvilli – tiny hairs that absorb nutrients from food particles as they pass through the gut. These microvilli absorb nutrients through their surface area – meaning that, the more surface area available, the more nutrients which can be absorbed.
Because gluten (a term originating from the Latin word for ‘glue’) is quite literally sticky – which is why we use it in baking – it is also difficult to digest. Gluten not only holds itself together, but it also holds all other food together as well, creating a lump in the stomach which moves into the gut as only-partially-digested food. This means much bigger particles are moving through the gut than is comfortable for the body – flattening the microvilli and reducing the available surface area for nutrients to be optimally digested. This essentially reduces the nutritional value of the food you eat alongside any gluten.
Over-and-above this, the immune system sees the bigger particles as foreign invaders and sets off the gut’s inflammatory response, being the body’s way to try to protect you from harm. These bigger particles also stay in the gut for longer than they should, causing them to begin rotting while still in the body. This can cause diarrhoea, constipation, nausea, and abdominal discomfort.
In addition, gluten is another example of a highly processed food product, with wheat flours being refined, often bleached, sourced from fields sprayed with pesticides, and is regularly used as filler food with lots of added preservatives and non-food ingredients. If the gluten itself does not cause any issues, the low-quality grades of gluten may cause problems because of these additional reasons.
It is definitely not the case that all persons cannot or should not eat gluten – however, we have heard countless tales of people suffering from irritants such as IBS, through to skin problems such as eczema, and even mood challenges, such as anxiety, who have found incredible relief upon giving up gluten. Typically – post having tried all other forms of medical intervention, before coming back to food!
Talitha shares her own journey with gluten:
It was a long journey to discover that my body does not function optimally when I eat gluten.
Since I cut out gluten completely my digestion is fabulous, my energy levels stable, my brain fog gone, my body fat healthy, my skin smooth and clear. It’s just not an option to poison my body anymore.
I don’t generally feed my kids food with gluten either but when they do have it, it is good quality and unrefined whole food - for example, organic sourdough bread.
I choose quality over quantity.
The biggest concern for me is fake food: packaged food filled with wheat and sugar, and a long list of unpronounceable ingredients. I always read the ingredients list before I put anything in my mouth.
And I don’t just tell my kids they can’t have something. I do my best to explain why, so that I’m not their policeman, but rather that encourage them to feel empowered and informed in using their own judgement in making the best food choices for their unique bodies and life.
Thank you to Mila’s Meals for providing such valuable and informative knowledge all things gluten, dairy, and sugar-free on your website!
Where to from here?
For those interested in exploring this topic further, the award-winning book Mila’s Meals: The Beginning and The Basics by Catherine Barnhoorn is available for purchase at All Things Earthly.
For those interested in exploring these flavours further, pop in and have a browse of our to-die-for Craving’s Bakery, as well as the delicious range gluten-free products on our shelves, including products from: