Is gluten the villain it’s been made out to be in our modern-day food story?
When I suggest to a client that they try 2 weeks gluten-free, the response is often “But I’ve been eating it my whole life. It must be okay or I would know by now.”
Two fallacies here:
- Many of these people who tell me that they would “know by now” have come to chat with me because they don’t feel well and whole and vital, so something is obviously amiss!
- They are making the assumption that they are eating the same amount of gluten that they did as a kid. Which is false on a few fronts.
First, wheat in the U.S. has been raised for higher and higher gluten content. Gluten makes pastries fluffy. We like fluffy.
Second, with the advent of processed foods, the amount of wheat we eat has increased exponentially. Now it’s not only in our bread, it’s in our soy sauce and power bars and licorice sticks.
Don’t believe me? Read the labels.
Wondering why? Check out our country’s farm policies. It will give you great insight into why there is gluten and corn syrup in everything.
So, especially my older clients, are not only eating a very different wheat now than they did when they were kids, they are eating much more of it.
Interestingly, a number of folks have reported to me that while they can’t eat wheat here in the States, when they travel to Italy or France and eat food made with the local unaltered wheat, they are fine.
If you have noticed this is true for you, avoid commercial wheat but give spelt a try.
Spelt is a wheat that has not been overly tampered with, so it has lower gluten levels.
How do you know if you are having trouble digesting gluten?
Gluten intolerance manifests in a lot of different ways. Often times, there is some level of bloating and digestive upset. Sometimes there are upper respiratory issues. Kids who have chronic ear infections (or adults who were kids with chronic ear infections) always send my glutano-meter rocketing! I also get super suspicious when someone has chronic sinus issues that do not change with the seasons.
The most insidious effect of gluten is exhaustion and lack of motivation. Sometimes this slides into depression.
Not when you understand the connection between the nervous system and the gut.
Many of the chemicals that your brain needs to function well and happily are made in the digestive tract, most notably serotonin. If your digestive tract is gummed with gluten, then you are not making enough of the neurotransmitters you need to be a happy, healthy human being.
Why would gluten make you fat and malnourished?
Your intestines are lined with cilia that wave around like weed fronds absorbing nutrients from your food as it passes through. If you can’t digest gluten well, it gums up the cilia, eventually making them lie down and play dead.
Which means you are eating, but not actually absorbing nutrients.
And so your body feels like it still needs something….
….so you eat some more.
I’ve had fascinating conversations with clients about this, during which they have described eating til their stomach feels stuffed, yet still feeling lack of satisfaction and depletion, or eating to try to gain energy that doesn’t come, so continuing to eat.
We have been told to call this “emotional eating,” and, ironically, often the foods that we reach for when we want comfort are high gluten (bagels and cookies and pizza, oh my!).
But what if, instead of thinking that you are trying to feed an emotional need with your over-eating, you feel into the idea that you are trying to feed cells that are malnourished, that want something from your food that you just aren’t getting. Does that feel different? Does that ring true for you?