Why Is Everyone Talking About Gluten?

Gluten sensitivity is quite a popular topic of discussion these days. With its connections to acne, allergies, osteoporosis, and other conditions, it shouldn’t be a surprise there’s so much interest in gluten. But what exactly is gluten? In what ways can it have effects on your health? And why does it matter anyway? Let’s explore these questions now.

To start, we’ll define what gluten is and is not. Gluten is a substance (technically a protein) that is found in certain grains. Gluten isn’t a bacteria, virus, or some kind of artificial food additive. It is a naturally occuring part of the grains in which it is found, and we call these grains “gluten grains”.

Gluten occurs naturally in only three grains: barley, wheat, and rye. If you eat even a small serving of any of those grains, you are eating gluten. Don’t forget that this includes flours made from these grains, as well as any other foods made from these grains, such as beer, pretzels, and bread.

Gluten can cause health problems because in certain individuals, it causes damage to the intestinal lining and also causes the immune system to malfunction. This leads to a whole host of problems, including anemia, autoimmune diseases, nutrient deficiencies, and more.

Some confusion has arisen over whether oats contain gluten. Unfortunately, the answer is sometimes. Oats do contain a substance similar to gluten, but it is different than the gluten in wheat, barley, and rye. This substance in oats doesn’t cause problems for most people. The real issue has to do with contamination. You see, oats are often grown near gluten grains, and are transported and processed on the same machines as gluten grains. This leads to traces of wheat, barley, or rye gluten being found in oats. Look for labels stating “gluten-free” when purchasing oats to be sure they truly are gluten free.

Surprisingly, gluten can show up where you least expect it. Fried foods often contain gluten because the foods are dipped in a batter that contains gluten-containing flour before frying. Another surprise is soy sauce; it actually contains gluten. Look for tamari instead, it is usually gluten-free. Gluten itself is sometimes added as agent in foods such as candies, to provide texture and consistency.

Gluten grains became a staple of our diet around 10,000 years ago, as the first agricultural societies began farming with cereal grains. Since then, our dependence on cereal grains, including gluten-containing grains, hasn’t fallen out of favor.

It is interesting to note that the geographical areas that have had gluten in their diets for the longest period of time, also tend to have the lowest incidence of gluten allergy (celiac disease). This means that it likely takes many generations for our bodies to adapt to eating this gluten as a food. The fact that many of our genomes aren’t fully adapted to eating gluten is a likely reason for such a large number of people being sensitive to gluten.

If you now or in the past have suffered from arthritis, autoimmune diseases, anemia, frequent stomach or bowel problems, or skin conditions, you should consider that perhaps you too have a sensitivity to gluten.

Get the answer on whether gluten may be causing your health condition, visit your Portland Chiropractor for an evaluation. You should look for a Portland Chiropractor knowledgeable about gluten-related conditions and begin your road to recovery.

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