cookieEver wonder why when we walk down bread aisles, pasta aisles and even dessert aisles we now see GLUTEN-FREE alternatives every which way but loose?  Did you ever hear someone say they have celiac or a gluten intolerance? Want to know what the heck they are talking about? 

Gluten is simply a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and sometimes oats due to cross-contamination.  It has elastic properties which makes it products chewy such as pizza crust.  

The funny thing about gluten is, even if you’re not “gluten intolerant,” you may be a little sensitive to it. This is because it’s an especially difficult protein to digest. In the US in particular, our wheat, rye, and barley products have a higher concentration of gluten. This is why some people who cannot tolerate it here in the States, are fine when they are over in Europe or other parts of the world!

Why is it hard to digest for some people, you say?  

Once these proteins reach our small intestines our body goes into what you might call SHOCK.  The villi in our intestines (the little hairs that help us absorb nutrients) flatten to the intestinal wall.  What that means for you is nutrient absorption comes to a screeching halt, since with the villi flattened down, there’s nothing to pick up those glorious nutrients. Someone with celiac disease might have a more severe reaction.  Their immune system now plays a role and actually starts attacking the body (yikes).  

Someone with gluten sensitivity might just feel more exhausted, cranky and easily irritated OR you might find your gut being slightly more distended than usual (this sometimes happens the next day).  If you or someone you know has these kinds of emotional reactions after a meal, they might have an intolerance or sensitivity to something and might now even know it.  

Gluten is not evil.

Many people try a gluten free diet and feel incredible. Their natural conclusion is: “I feel so much better without gluten! I must be gluten intolerant!” While that may be true and you may be gluten sensitive, intolerant, or even allergic, be careful with your conclusion.

While following a gluten-free diet may help you feel great, ask yourself one thing: Is it the gluten that was making you feel crappy, or was it the fact that you also cut out cookies, cakes, bagels, pretzels, pasta, crackers, and other processed flour treats? A lot of times, people naturally cut out these processed foods as a result of going gluten free, so OF COURSE you’re going to feel better after cutting these energy draining, gut-destressing foods.

photo 2Whole grains rock.

If you want to try gluten free I encourage you to incorporate whole grains into your diet, like amaranth, buckwheat, millet, brown rice and quinoa (technically seeds, not grains). Try soaking them over night for added ease in digestibility. Featured to the right is a salad I made for lunch, topped with half a cup of black rice (gluten free), and drizzled with a dijon vinaigrette. Scrumptious and filling.

How to eat gluten like a rock star.

If you aren’t gluten intolerant, or want to try out glutenous grains the healthy way, here is what I suggest: Go for whole grains. Buy wheat berries, rye berries, farro, barley, and cook them in their true form, just as you would prepare rice. In order to balance your blood sugar, limit your intake to half a cup at lunch time. This will prevent you from CRASHING and BLOATING after.

For many people, it’s not about the gluten. It’s more about the quality of the grain and the quantity.

How do you test for gluten sensitivity? 

There are a number of tests you can have done. Here are two options:

1. Have a Food Sensitivity & Allergy Test done: This test requires a simple blood draw from a qualified health professional, and will test if any foods you’re eating, including gluten, dairy, mango, peaches, nuts, oysters, the list goes on, are causing inflammation in your body without you even realizing it! If you’re in the NY or NJ area, send me an email at jennie@jenniefagen and I can see if you qualify for complimentary testing. 

2. Do something called, an elimination diet: Refrain from eating gluten (COMPLETELY) for 2 weeks. Then reintroduce it to your body. Have it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (ahhh the dream…) and pay attention to how your body reacts. The symptoms can be obvious or subtle. It might simply be that you feel tired or irritable. You might get a tummy ache, feel sad, or notice that the next day your gut is puffing out like a balloon. If you want support in doing an elimination diet, start by scheduling a Breakthrough Session with me here: Breakthrough Session with Jennie.

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