One of the major selling points of the Paleo lifestyle is that it is gluten free, making it a simple diet for those suffering from gluten allergies. Is it just me, or does it seem that there is an epidemic of gluten intolerance and gluten allergies in the US. It’s estimated that 1 in 133 people have Celiac Disease, the most severe form of gluten intolerance, but a true statistic showing how many people suffer from gluten intolerance/sensitivity/allergy is impossible to collect since there is currently no accepted test for gluten allergies. What’s the deal? I mean how did a staple food, like wheat, become so toxic to the human body? I set out to investigate what the causes of developing a gluten sensitivity/allergy are as well as the consequences of gluten allergies.
First, gluten is defined as a substance that gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep shape. It is found in foods like wheat, rye, barley, and foods derived from them. Gluten is a protein composite consisting of a gliadin fraction and a glutenin fraction. Gluten and wheat are not the same thing, and wheat is not the only substance that contains gluten, just to clear up a couple of common misconceptions.
Gluten allergies/intolerances are a “spectrum disease” the chart below shows the levels of gluten issues.
Some gluten issues are caused by the body attacking itself when gluten is present, aka an autoimmune disease such as Celiac disease. There is a full blow gluten allergy which could trigger anaphylactic shock, or cause respiratory issues. The third tier, not autoimmune/not allergic, is reserved for people who have a gluten sensitivity that cannot be categorized as Celiac Disease nor allergic reaction to gluten. It’s the catch-all category for those who can’t be diagnosed.
So what are we doing wrong? Why has the number of people diagnosed with Celiac Disease risen to 1 in 133 people from 1 in 5000 people 50 years ago? One answer, given by several references suggests that the rise of genetically modified organisms is directly responsible for the explosion of Celiac cases. GMO wheat has new proteins that weren’t present in wheat from the 60’s, and they may be the culprit for causing these allergies. Another study suggests that from 1997 to 2002, the time when GMO’s were first hitting the grocery store shelves, that people hospitalized for food allergic reactions jumped 265%!
What can we do to fix it? Well, for starters cut out GMO or processed foods. If you eat frankenfood, you’ll get sick. Same goes for all that processed stuff that has ingredients you can’t pronounce. Next, eat whole foods like fruits, vegetables, water, lean meats etc. The more basic the ingredient list the fewer variables contributing to the decline of your health. If you feel sluggish, sick, bloated etc after eating something that has gluten in it, try and cut the gluten out and see if you feel better. I’m not a doctor, so if you think there is something seriously wrong you should probably go visit someone with an MD after their name.
The health benefits of going gluten free are numerous, plus there are some pretty crafty people out there making lots of healthy gluten free options so you don’t need to miss out on you favorite foods. Like dessert, if you’re going to give gluten free a try, just remember that the lovely folks over at Campo have your back, and make mean gluten free desserts! Give one a try the next time you’re in Downtown Reno!