We Europeans are starting to catch up with the U.S.’ anti-gluten hype; I’m noticing more and more people are interested. Over here, the gluten-free diet has been associated with health freaks (and of course people with gluten allergy), but word is spreading the gluten-free diet is the way to energetic health and weight loss (making it more popular). But is it, really?
While a gluten-free diet has been a big hype in the U.S. for some time now, most of us Europeans are just getting to know about it. I’m thinking we Europeans love our bread and pasta’s so much, we needed some years to get use to idea of it actually NOT being the healthiest thing on earth (for example: the Dutch government has always campaigned and made ads claiming bread and milk are healthy and you should eat and drink loads of it. This makes sense; this country is filled with cows (no pun.. well maybe half a pun haha) –so we have a surplus on milk and cheese (we eat cheese with bread) that has to be sold).
ANYWAY. Like some others, I made the choice to hardly eat bread and pasta anymore. This has to do with the ‘gluten-theory’, but even more with the glycemic index. As I said in my chapter about ‘Food’; I try to get myself well-informed and then look at what works for me. Resulting in a mix-and-match of different theories and facts.
The glycemic index is a whole different ‘story’ by itself (but related to gluten-free beliefs in some way): so I decided to explain about both separately. I’ll try to focus on Gluten here.. there’s a lot to say about it..
Gluten-free : a remedy for.. what?
I first heard of gluten (and gluten-free diet) about 15 years ago. I knew some people who were diagnosed with CVS (ME in Dutch). It’s a chronic fatigue illness (syndrome), which wasn’t even officially recognized as a real illness back then. These people were advised to try a gluten-free diet; specialists didn’t really know how to cure CVS or what was causing it (they still don’t, I believe). Yet some patients appeared to get more energy if they cut gluten out of their diets.
I remember my parents having my aunt (a CVS patient) for dinner and how they were told about this gluten free diet (seemed totally absurd to most people back then). They got a list of 10.000 things containing gluten. And 5 things that were ok to eat (ok, I’m exaggerating, but still).
I haven’t heard about it since, until two years ago. I first heard of it from American and Canadian friends. And then from personal trainers and healthy food fanatics in The Netherlands (it’s funny to see how ‘news’ travels). Like back in the 90’s its seen as a remedy against fatigue; that wasted out, tired, heavy, unhappy feeling. Just the general feeling of having no energy, really.
But it isn’t really a ‘remedy’ for healthy people. The gluten-free dieting thing is actually meant for people with Coeliac (or Celiac) disease and people with actual gluten allergies. We ‘healthy’ people saw the symptoms of this disease and allergy, heard that gluten-free food is a relief of the symptoms and figured: “Hey, I’m tired a lot. I have a bloated feeling after dinner! Lets go gluten free!”
But, feeling tired, or feeling bloated after dinner, can have tons of other (very logical) reasons..! (if you’ve just eat a bag of potatoes, you will feel like a bag of potatoes. -Potatoes are gluten-free by the way ; ) ).
So also look at the rest of your lifestyle, if fatique and feeling bloated is your problem. Maybe you have too much stress/ eat irregular meals/portions are too big, etc. Exercise is a good way to get more energy too ; )
But what IS gluten?
Gluten is a (type of protein-) substance that makes our food fluffy (think bread), doughy (think brownie) and ‘thickish’ (think sauce and soups). In short: it’s a substance added to nearly anything we eat, to make the texture more appealing .
Its not a poison. Gluten is a ‘safe’ organic product, found in wheat, rye and barley. It’s part of the actual grain, so you’ll also find it in nearly all the –seemingly harmless- bread-types (bread, pita, crackers, cereals, etc). Weird thing is that, in a lot of cases, the human body doesn’t seem to know what to do with gluten. It CAN make us tired and feel bloated (gluten-sensitive), in some bodies it attacks the immune system (allergy), or truly makes us very ill (Coeliac disease).
-People with Coeliac disease NEED a gluten free diet. They don’t have a choice. Believe me, that’s quite an ordeal.
-People with a gluten allergy need a part-gluten diet. They have more to chose from (for instance: corn flour usually contains traces of gluten, but won’t affect most people with a gluten-allergy). Still, it’s an annoying diet.
-People with gluten-sensitivity, have the choice to just get used to it (most of us are without knowing), or can decide to cut some gluten out of the diet. I wouldn’t recommend a totally gluten-free diet: We’re just sensitive to large amounts of gluten (in pasta, bread, etc.) and even then we don’t truly get sick of it. It seems a waste of time (effort) and taste (diversity) to truly go die-hard anti-gluten. Life’s too short to be complicating it without a real pay-off. Right?
Also, please realize: a) a total gluten-free diet means you lose on a lot of other important vitamins and minerals. Even most supplements contain gluten too.
b) you’re body will get used not getting gluten to digest. If you ever DO feel like taking a piece of cake or bread (at a birthday or that special Xmas dinner) your intestines will be likely to end up in turmoil. -Merry Christmas!
Why are we sensitive to Gluten?
It is a bit weird that a lot of us have some troubles digesting gluten. It’s an organic product and we’ve been eating it for centuries. Yet ‘centuries’ are a relatively short period if you compare it to the timescale of our actual existence. Some people think our bodies simply aren’t made to digest gluten and its simply taking a very long time for us to assimilate to this ‘new’ type of food. This theory has to do with the Paleolithic diet theory. I see some sense in this theory about gluten, but the Paleolithic diet is way off in my opinion (look it up if you haven’t heard of it and are curious).
I know most people tend to change their diet because they want to lose weight. The gluten-free diet has been proclaimed to be the way to go if you truly want to live an energetic healthy life and.. lose weight. A lot of people focus on the latter.
If you know how intrusive this diet is, it seems logical that people will lose weight: without gluten, there isn’t a lot to chose from in the grocery store.
And you’d think that fabricated gluten-free products that ARE available in the store would be healthy and low on sugar and fat. But it isn’t.
If you buy fabricated products (soups, sauces, etc) that say ‘gluten-free’ on the package, you can be sure they put other substances in it to make it taste and look more appealing. Those other substances often contain a bunch of other additives that are more harmful than gluten.
Though it appears that most gluten-free dieters actually DO lose weight and feel a lot better. I remember reading a quote of a specialist saying that for most people this change of diet means they stop buying pre-cooked food (cause all have gluten) and grow more aware of what they buy and eat (and cook) in general. It makes people healthier, happier and lose weight because the lifestyle they had before was so bad. Not because of the actual gluten-free diet, but the overall healthier lifestyle
This made a lot of sense to me.
Guess what my conclusion is: yep, balance, baby! As I explained, I do believe it’s good to leave out the ‘gluten bombs’ (bread, pasta, common cereal, etc) from our daily diet. I truly do feel more energy and less bloated since I did. But I don’t believe it has all to do with gluten; it’s just of factor of many other things I will write about another time.
I also think we should enjoy life, relax and treat ourselves to things outside of our sensible daily diet sometimes. A huge BLT sandwich can be SO satisfying. So what if I feel bloated after? I’ll be bloated with a happy smile, lol