Is Gluten Bad for You?

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Gluten and gluten-free diets have gotten a lot of well-deserved attention in recent years, but many people still don’t know what gluten it is or how eliminating it can help them.

Because it’s such a hot topic, there’s a lot of information out there, but there’s also some misinformation. I’m going to give you some important facts about gluten and share how eliminating it can help you live a happier and healthier life.

A recent participant at one of my Power of Food events asked me if going gluten-free was right for her. Now, if you know my work, you know that I don’t ever tell people what they should or shouldn’t do. I’m not that guy.

To live a healthy and vibrant life, it’s not about elimination and it’s not about restricting yourself, which only leaves you feeling frustrated, angry and guilty.

That being said, If there’s one thing I recommend eliminating it’s gluten. I recommend people look at it closely and examine how it makes them feel, because that’s what it all comes down to—the way you feel.

People I meet on my book tours and at my events have expressed some real delight at the effects of removing glutenous grains from their diet, whether it’s increased energy levels, reduced weight, or improved digestion. But how do you determine whether a gluten-free diet is right for you?

What is gluten anyway?

Gluten is a protein that’s found in grains like wheat, barley, rye, durum, spelt, kamut—even oats. (Oats should be gluten-free but through cross-contamination in the milling process they come into contact with gluten-based grains.) Think of gluten like a glue that holds together the bread, making it light, doughy and chewy.

Gluten has been a culprit in our symptoms for some time. We eat more wheat than ever before. Our ancestors ate mostly a plant and animal-based diet with very little processed foods.

These processed foods are a huge contributor to our suffering; the breads we’re eating today are far different from the breads our ancestors ate. Those breads were made with beautiful, whole ancient grains and prepared far differently from how our breads are prepared today. The bread industry is focused on expediency and immediacy, which means we’ve seen a huge deterioration in the quality of our grain-based products.

Where’s the gluten hiding?

Gluten is found in a lot more products than we would suspect – yogurt, salad dressing, deli meat, licorice, soy sauce, soups, flavoured teas and coffees, gravies, sauces and potato chips.

Remember: your health has nothing to do with what’s on the nutrition label. It has everything to do with what’s beside or below the nutrition label: the ingredient list. Look for gluten indicators like emulsifiers, stabilizers, seasonings, flavourings, hydrolyzed plant protein or natural flavours. (FYI: There are about 400 different chemicals allowed in processed food under the guise of ‘natural flavour’).

In the end, there’s nobody looking after your health but you. It’s important to take things into your own hands and do your own research.

What can I expect from going gluten-free?

  • weight loss

  • heightened mood

  • more energy

  • better digestion

  • decreased inflammation

  • better nutrient absorption

Look for gluten free grain alternatives such as quinoa, brown rice, millet and amaranth to curb your carbohydrate cravings. They’re more efficient on the digestive system and more easily absorbed, which will give you more energy and keep your immune system stronger.

There are also plenty of gluten-free recipes to try, like my Gluten Free Banana Bread, which is moist and chewy! Remember, gluten takes energy to process and that energy is energy being taken away from your immune system. Over 70% of your immune system is in your digestive system, which is why it’s incredibly important to have a healthy digestive system. This is key!

Gluten, unfortunately, is not part of a healthy digestive system. If you’re suffering from some of the symptoms we discussed, it’s time to really examine gluten’s role in your diet.

Going gluten-free can be a big lifestyle adjustment, but if you’re experiencing these symptoms, then you know there are options. I know from my own experience that as soon as I started adding in more plant-based foods and reduced gluten, I saw a very powerful, substantial shift in my digestive health.

How to determine if a gluten-free diet is right for you?

We all have an allergy to gluten whether we’re diagnosed or not. One of the main side effects of this allergy is inflammation. Where there are glutenous grains and processed foods, there is internal inflammation continuing to grow.

Without managing that inflammation it turns to disease. We want to be preventative and avoid what may be just around the corner. It’s a matter managing the sensitivity to gluten and the inflammation that comes with it as well as preventing it from growing into cancer, heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, and other things.

The symptoms give you the clue as to whether gluten is the culprit for the way you’re feeling.

Your digestive system has two main functions: One is to kill off bad bacteria and the other is to pull nutrients from your food. If that’s not happening, you’re going to be malnourished. This leads to suffering: lack of energy, sleep deprivation, weight issues, diarrhea, joint pain, chronic fatigue, foggy thinking, depression, irritability and hormonal imbalances. Those are just some of the symptoms associated with gluten consumption.

The key is to be familiar with these symptoms so you can take preventative action.

What’s the difference between gluten intolerance and celiac?

Celiac is an entirely different beast. Though symptoms can be very similar, a gluten intolerance, sensitivity or allergy means a person will experience symptoms like constipation or bloating or headaches or even severe migraines. Disruption of sleep and weight gain, irritability and depression are also common. (All too familiar for me in the past!) Over time, gluten sensitivities get worse because we’re slowly destroying parts of our digestive system, and in particular, our small intestine.

Celiac, on the other hand, is classified as an autoimmune disorder – the immune system starts to attack itself and triggers an autoimmune response that acts like an enemy invading the digestive system. Repeated exposure to gluten eventually flattens the villi, which are the tiny fingers of the small intestine, essential for soaking up nutrients from your food.

How do I know if I’m celiac?

Testing for celiac can be done through blood testing or a small intestine biopsy. Unfortunately, this testing isn’t always accurate – people are often found negative but still experience uncomfortable symptoms. It’s always important to go back to how you feel. If you’re really not feeling well, there’s something going on that’s impacting your ability to thrive.

Is gluten-free all it’s cracked up to be?

The gluten-free movement has become a massive market – a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Grocery store shelves are full of gluten-free products now. But are they healthier for you? Not necessarily. Many gluten free products are made from processed grains with little or no nutritional value. Worse, these products may be loaded with salt, sugar and fat, leading to all sorts of additional health issues.

What can I do about it?

The Power of Food method is about adding in rather than taking away.

If you’re eating a store bought gluten-free cracker, why not add some homemade almond butter to it? If you’re eating a gluten-free cookie, which will spike your insulin and give you a crash, why not eat a handful of hemp seeds at the same time to help control your sugar and give your body some nutrients? Rather than overhauling your lifestyle, consider what you can bring in to give you nutrients and added value.

In my new book, I talk a lot about the 80/20 rule. 80% of my diet comes from plant-based foods, and the other 20% comes from eating what I want, when I want. If you’re suffering from extreme symptoms, allowing your 20% to be gluten-based might not be ideal. For the rest of us, it’s a great way to approach your eating. The more you can incorporate these plant-based foods on a daily basis, the more you’ll see a powerful difference in how you feel.

Do your research, empower yourself, and figure out what’s right for you. Good luck on your gluten-free journey, and I hope this has helped you! Tell me about your adventures in gluten-free living in the comment box below.

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About Adam Hart

Adam Hart is the bestselling author of The Power of Food. When not on stage speaking, Adam can be found helping one of his many corporate clients in awakening an abundance of energy through his highly engaging stress management solutions.Contact Adam to book a demo for an enhanced corporate wellness experience.

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  1. […] all this talk about gluten-free diets, people are pretty anti-grain these days. And I get it. I’m more of a gluten-free guy myself. But […]

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