Going Gluten-Free: Fad Diet, Myth, or Actually Healthy?
Over the last few years, we have heard an awful lot about gluten, with stores, restaurants and products actually highlighting their ‘gluten-free’ offerings in their advertising.
I talk about eliminating gluten in my Beauty Detox books, because of the fact that many have undiagnosed sensitivities to gluten and wheat is a highly pesticide sprayed crop- I believe there are better options out there for you to put in your belly. I want to state upfront that I personally also avoid gluten because I notice that I get bloated when I eat it (except when I am traveling overseas and the wheat seems to be different).
But let’s go into more detail about this big topic...giving up gluten is a huge dietary trend right now that can’t be ignored. But how many of us are even really sure of what gluten actually is?
Jimmy Kimmel hilariously interviewed a number of people on the street about a year ago who readily asserted that they are staunchly gluten-free, but when asked what it was, admitted they really didn’t know.
Let’s take a moment here to examine the facts: Gluten is actually a compound of two proteins combined with starch found in a number of common grains, like wheat, rye and barley. Like everything found in nature, it has a purpose, which is to nourish the embryonic plants during the germination period.
For bakers and chefs, it provides the stretchy elasticity to dough which help make common foods such as bread, pizza crust and pastas, giving them that texture that so many of us love.
Yum! That sounds pretty good, so why is everyone avoiding these grains?
Well, there are a few good reasons. One really important one that doesn’t get a lot of mention is that wheat and other gluten-containing crops are commonly sprayed with copious amounts of pesticides and herbicides. These harmful chemicals are still very much present in the foods that are made from them and enter your body upon consuming them, undermining your natural beauty, and potentially causing health problems over time.
Exposure to pesticides/herbicides and their ingested residues have been linked to everything from headaches, dizziness and fatigue to certain forms of cancer.
This is just one of many great reasons to make sure you are buying organic and local whenever possible.
In addition to the fact that wheat and other such gluten-containing crops are heavily sprayed with chemicals, they are also often stored in silos for long periods of time due to the staggeringly vast amounts that are farmed annually, so mold and fungus contamination are very valid concerns.
And then there is the possibility of being sensitive to the actual gluten itself that effects so many people – some more, and in different ways, than others.
Probably the most well-known explanation for gluten sensitivity is Celiac Disease. It is an autoimmune disorder in which the lining of the small intestine is actually damaged by the consumption of gluten, causing symptoms of abdominal stress like excessive gas, bloating, diarrhea, and sometimes vomiting.
Other symptoms include everything from migraine headaches and joint pain to fatigue, depression and even seizures. Since there is no actual known cure, the very best (and currently the only way) way to address the problem is with a gluten-free diet.
But not everyone has Celiac Disease, right?
That is absolutely true, but remember I said it was probably the most well-known reason? That’s because an estimated 18 million (and by some researchers’ estimates, as many as 30 million or more) Americans have non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, in addition to the approximately three million with diagnosed Celiac Disease.
With those kinds of numbers, it is really not surprising that so many gluten-free products started popping up in specialty stores, supermarkets (more on this a bit later on) and cafes, supporting the massive trend toward gluten-free eating that we have today.
In some ways this is good, and in some ways not so much, because (as Jimmy Kimmel demonstrated earlier) many people just follow the trend and cut grains and grain products out of their diets without actually knowing why.
If you are not gluten sensitive, then there is a good chance that you are doing more to eliminate carbohydrates from your diet than you may have intended, unless you are replacing these grains with a healthy alternative.
But carbs are like taxes: the less the better, right?
Absolutely not! Everything in life requires balance, and while better, healthier eating is always a wonderful goal to have, thinking carbs are the enemy is a big problem and can lead to overeating other much more problematic and acidic foods.
It is important to consider that the foods you may choose to eliminate probably have other nutritional attributes which need to be replaced in order to avoid a deficit in those areas.
Simply put, you definitely do NOT want to fall into the no carb/low carb trap.
The fact is, carbohydrates are necessary and absolutely promote health and beauty! They contain essential macronutrients that provide you with energy, which is why your body suffers when you don’t get enough carbohydrates.
Your brain uses the glucose harvested from the carbs in your food for fuel, in fact, is the only fuel normally used by brain cells.
Because your neurons cannot store this simple sugar, they are dependent on a pretty steady supply to be delivered by the bloodstream. Without them, you will find it harder and harder to focus, and end up feeling a bit foggy. You might even find yourself feeling more irritable and stressed out.
Some fad diets can have you thinking that all carbs are the enemy, and that you can train your body to burn fat for fuel in the complete absence of carbs in your diet, but there is really no good evidence to support this claim.
Often these food plans seek to replace the grains with large portion sizes of dense proteins (ie various forms of animal proteins), substituting meats for healthy carbs, throwing the body into a more acidic state, and losing important dietary fiber in the bargain. Eating too much protein is a huge problem (and yes, there is such a thing as eating too much protein!), as it puts excessive pressure on your kidneys and liver, acidifies your body and is a source of a huge amount of toxicity.
According to the ancient traditional wisdom of Ayurveda, healthy grains help to build bone and muscle, contributing to vitality and giving the body strength and endurance.
Grains and grain products also provide necessary bulk for our diets, providing the dietary fiber we need to keep our gastro- intestinal tracts clean, sweeping the toxins from the body, while promoting heart health by keeping cholesterol levels in check.
Complex carbs from the foods you eat are slowly broken down into simpler sugars that enter your bloodstream, sending a message to the pancreas to secrete insulin, which transports them to the liver.
In the liver, some of those sugars are converted to glucose which provides the essential energy for your brain and your muscles to function at their best. If your body doesn’t get enough energy from glucose, it will instead break down protein to get needed energy.
This means your body cannot use protein to build your muscles and tissues. It also means more stress is put on your kidneys to process the toxins created when we try to digest too much protein – NOT a good cycle to get into at all!
When eliminating some sources of carbohydrates from your diet, it’s important to be certain you replace them.
Of course, you need to make sure you are replacing them with the right carbs. These include unrefined Beauty Grains like amaranth, quinoa, millet, and buckwheat; root vegetables like yams and sweet potatoes; and other healthy starches such as winter squash, beans, lentils, and brown or wild rice. If you are trying to lose weight, you can eat smaller portions of grains and more veggies, and fill up on more watery starchy vegetables like butternut and acorn squash.
Unrefined is the key here. Carbohydrates that are refined and convert into blood sugar too quickly are actually unhealthy for you because they will cause spiking in your insulin and contribute to weight gain.
Research has shown that highly processed foods have the same effect on the brain as cocaine! After a brief initial rush of energy and subsequent crash, you find that you crave more, again and again.
This goes a long way toward explaining some food addictions, and why obesity is such a big problem in our ‘modern’ culture, actually reaching epidemic proportions as we speak.
Eliminating highly and commonly allergenic foods, such as gluten, from your diet may actually help improve your overall health, help to eliminate sugar and carb cravings over time, and help you lose weight.
You may not feel the results immediately because it can take some time for any residual inflammation to subside, but in time there will be a positive difference as long as you make sure you are replacing those gluten containing grains with healthy ones like the ones I mentioned above.
This is key, because, believe it or not, another pitfall of the gluten-free movement is actually some of the gluten-free products lining the shelves in your local store!
Gluten free is only that – it does not mean that it is a good addition to your diet.
Obviously, you can’t regularly dive head-first into a bag of gluten-free cookies, and come out looking and feeling your best. While they may be made from types of flours that are gluten-free, they’re still not necessarily slimming or even healthy for you. Cookies are still, well – cookies.
In looking over some of the products lining the store shelves, I noticed that some gluten-free pretzel snacks are made primarily of corn starch, followed by potato starch and oils.
For these ingredients to be the main component of this food means that while you’re proudly boasting that you’re gluten-free, you’re not going to see the weight loss and all the improvements in your health that you might otherwise expect to achieve.
Many gluten-free snacks still have loads of vegetable oil, too, which absolutely isn’t part of the Beauty Detox lifestyle or any healthy diet, really. Why? Because vegetable oil is a polyunsaturated oil that breaks down with heat, light or just time, creating aging free radicals, and besides, is not a whole food.
You’ll still be consuming processed, low-nutrient foods, and if you’re frequently eating gluten-free baked goods, these foods can really congest your body.
Remember, when wheat and other gluten-containing ingredients in foods are removed, something has to be added back in to replace them. I mentioned corn starch and certain low quality flours, above. To compound the problem, such processed corn products are also likely to be genetically modified and are largely lacking in nutrients.
Packaged foods ar1en’t the best choice we all know, but it doesn’t mean that we don’t also like to snack and have little goodies around sometimes! Just take a moment and be sure you are closely scrutinizing the ingredients on the label before tossing them into your shopping cart. Look for the USDA organic or at least the non-GMO banner on the front of the product.
You’re far better off not having those pretzels in any form, and switching instead to some crunchy raw sunflower seeds or veggie sticks with salsa or hummus for a snack (YUM!). Whole foods will always beat packaged, processed foods, even gluten-free replacements, every time.
The latest myths and fads will always be tempting, because they’re new and usually come with some kind of attractive promises.
I understand the draw to them, and yet I’ve seen enough come and go in my lifetime and career to know that you should always be sure you are really doing your research before making any significant changes to your nutrition. Remember, it’s not just gluten-free and certainly not cutting carbs altogether, but making the best, most nutritious choices that you can make overall!
Make sure that what you are doing is right for you and your body.
Blindly following diet advice will inevitably leave you feeling hungry, foggy, bloated or irritable, and can ultimately age you in ways it’s hard to imagine right now.
Instead, tune in and stick to some basic guiding principles that you can easily test and verify, as so many healthy Beauty Detoxers in our community have done. Join us, we’d love to have you and support you! :)
Have a great day, take care of yourself, and see you back here very soon.
In love and health,
P.S. LA Beauties! Next Thursday October 15th from 5pm – 8pm at Glow Bio we will be hosting a trunk show by one of my favorite designers K/LLER Collection! Stop by to shop with me. :) In addition to jewelry we will have samples of Glow Bio drinks, snacks, and special discounts on cleanses.