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You can’t go to most grocery stores these days without seeing gluten free products displayed throughout the store. From cookies and crackers to baking mixes and sauces, many companies are hopping on the gluten free bandwagon. So what’s the big deal about gluten anyway?
Gluten is a protein that is found in cereal grains such as wheat, barley, and rye. It’s what gives the dough made with these particular grains the elasticity to hold together (think ‘glue’). People with celiac disease and gluten sensitivity cannot properly digest gluten. I learned I have a gluten sensitivity several years ago. I mention this in my Eat Real Food post.
For someone with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, there is an autoimmune reaction to ingesting certain types of gluten:
- Gliadin in wheat
- Secalin in rye
- Hordein in barley
- Avenin in oats
These large protein molecules cannot be broken down and digested, causing the immune system to create antibodies against them. The antibodies end up attacking the villi in the small intestine, resulting in inflammation and damage to the small intestine. This leads to the inability of the body to absorb vital nutrients from food, which in turn causes a whole host of other health issues.
We tend to think of the symptoms of celiac disease as being chronic abdominal discomfort and digestive issues. And these certainly are the classic symptoms. But there are a host of other symptoms that can be traced back to a sensitivity to gluten. They include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Unexplained weight loss
- Gas and bloating
- Eczema, dry skin, and acne
- Delayed growth in children
- Irregular menstrual cycles
If you struggle with even one of these, you might consider trying a gluten free diet. Before I was diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity, I suffered from extreme fatigue, eczema, bloating, and the inability to lose the baby weight after our second son was born. Each of these quickly improved when I began a gluten free diet. Now, if I accidentally ingest gluten, I have severe nausea, migraines, and cramping. It’s scary to think of what gluten was doing to my body before I got it out of my system. The only way I could tell for sure was to eliminate it completely from my diet. It was then that my body had the chance to begin healing, and I was able to lose weight and feel energized again.
Statistics show that 97% of people who have a gluten allergy do not know it! Because of this, I recommend to all my clients to completely eliminate gluten from their diets for one month. I then encourage them to keep a log of how they feel during this time. Typically they feel so much better, they don’t want to go back to eating gluten again. There are various tests that can be taken to determine if you have a gluten allergy, but many of these produce unreliable results. In my opinion, the cheapest and most effective test is to eliminate gluten completely from your diet and see how you feel. How you feel is the best test of all!
The good news is that there has never been a better time to go gluten free. There are so many wonderful gluten free products and cookbooks to help you get started. Here are a few of my favorites:
The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook by Elana Amsterdam – This is a wonderful cookbook that uses almond flour as the primary ingredient for each of the recipes. The recipes are simple (most contain 5 to 6 ingredients) and delicious. I love the Banana Blueberry Muffin recipe! Almond flour is very high in protein, low in carbs, and makes delicious baked goods. This cookbook gets used a lot in our house. I highly recommend.
Paleo Indulgences: Healthy Gluten-Free Recipes to Satisfy Your Primal Cravings by Tammy Credicott – This is another fabulous cookbook that relies on either almond flour or coconut flour for its easy recipes. It also has a number of healthy dessert recipes in it. They are healthy, free of refined sugars, and delicious!
Blanched Almond Meal Flour, 5 lbs. – This is some of the best almond flour I’ve tried. It’s ground very fine, making it ideal for use in recipes. The 5 lb. bag is also much cheaper than buying smaller bags at the grocery store.
Bob’s Red Mill Organic Coconut Flour, – This is a high quality coconut flour that will make all those coconut flour recipes delicious!
Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour,– This is my favorite all-purpose gluten free flour, because it’s higher in protein and fiber than many other gluten free flours. You can substitute this flour cup for cup in your favorite recipes to make them gluten free!
Stay tuned for my next post where I will give you a recipe for yummy, gluten free banana pancakes!