If you read health news or even walk down the aisles of your local grocery store, you have probably heard or read something about gluten-free foods. However, for the novice to gluten information, it may be confusing and difficult to understand what all the fuss is about. The truth is, for many people, eating gluten-free foods is not just a fad, it is a necessary lifestyle that can make the difference between feeling and being healthy and being miserable.
Wheat in the American Diet
Historically, wheat has only become dominant in the American diet since the days of the Dust Bowl. Prior to that time, most produce was grown locally and few foods were processed. Bread was made with locally grown wheat or other grains and was not produced on large commercial farms. When the Dust Bowl happened, farmers began looking for crops that would thrive in the harsh soil conditions of the Midwest and the result was a surplus of genetically altered grain, or gluten wheat, that became overwhelmingly integrated into the American diet.
In today’s foods, wheat products are found in almost every kind of processed food, many of them surprising. Not only can you find wheat in breads and cereals, but it is also present in candy, condiments, soups and salad dressings. Foods that contain “modified food starch” and maltodextrin also contain gluten wheat.
The Effect of Gluten
Many researchers suspect that the negative effects of large amounts of gluten in the American diet are similar to allergy reactions. Since wheat gluten is so dominant in the American diet, many people simply eat so much that their bodies begin to react and reject it. The result is uncomfortable and potentially even dangerous intestinal and other physical responses. Common symptoms of gluten intolerance include fatigue, abdominal cramping, bloating, diarrhea, gas, constipation, intestinal bleeding and a myriad of other problems.
Gluten intolerance has been linked to autoimmune system disorders, such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Additionally, celiac disease, another autoimmune disorder is directly related to food high in gluten and painful attacks can be triggered by eating these foods.
The good news is that more and more food companies, grocery stores and restaurants are becoming aware of the need for alternative food choices that are gluten-free. There are also many ethnic foods that are entirely gluten-free, including Ethiopian, Mexican and Vietnamese.
One approach is to simply forego foods that contain wheat and switch to whole foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruits. Alternative grains that do not contain gluten include quinoa, rice, teff, corn, millet, buckwheat, sorghum, wild rice and amaranth. There are numerous recipe and cook books available now that can help you revise your diet and begin to eat in a more healthy way.
Even if you have not been diagnosed as gluten intolerant or with having a condition that makes wheat products unhealthy for you to eat, you may find that switching to a gluten-free diet helps you feel better overall. If all you do is avoid or reduce the amount of processed foods you eat and begin to eat more healthy whole foods, you may begin to see surprising improvement in how you feel overall.
– The Alternative Daily