why gluten, why now?
Americans spent an estimated 7 billion dollars on foods labeled gluten-free this year and the market is expected to continue to grow by 4 billion dollars by 2017, according to consumer research firm Mintel. It used to be that you could only find gluten-free products on a dusty shelf at the back of the local health mart, but now you find it in Stop and Shop, Walmart and even at the check out counter of Marshalls. The gluten-free craze has most likely gotten your attention and maybe you are thinking “could a gluten-free diet be right for me?” Or, maybe you are wondering if this is just the lastest health gimmick sweeping the nation fueled by the food industry. Let’s take a look at some of the statistics –
1 in 133 people have Celiac Disease
83% of these people are undiagnosed
6-10% of the population have Gluten Sensitivity
The main culprit - gluten - is the sticky protein in wheat, barley and rye, and can wreak havoc on people’s digestive, nervous and immune systems. The wheat that we are eating today is a different strain than that of our grandmother’s generation. It is a high yielding, hybrid wheat developed in the 50’s, that some believe to be the reason why so many more people are afflicted. Because it impacts so many systems in the body, Celiac Disease and Gluten Sensitivity can be difficult to diagnose.
If diagnosed with Celiac disease, you must adhere to a lifelong gluten-free diet. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease that attacks the villi in the small intestine, preventing absorption of important nutrients. It is extremely important to test for Celiac before giving up gluten, otherwise, the test may be falsely negative.
If your test for Celiac is negative but you are still experiencing symptoms (here's a list of common symptoms), you may want to consider eliminating gluten from your
diet. Often people with IBS, Neuropathy, Autoimmune Disease and Inflammatory Issues have Gluten Sensitivity and will benefit from going gluten-free. An elimination diet can help you immediately determine whether you suffer from Gluten Sensitivity.
Eliminate and Observe
For 14 days, eat no gluten whatsoever. Even a small amount will throw off the test, so try to comply. It may seem daunting at first, but there are several online resources that can help you with this effort (here's a gluten-free food list).
Closely observe and journal any physical symptoms, including mood and level of focus. The more you are able to record, the better you will be able to note whether gluten is affecting you. After 14 days, reintroduce gluten at each meal for 1 day. Reintroduce with simple gluten containing foods such as pasta, couscous, or wheat bulgar. Then, for the next 3 days cut out gluten again and monitor your results closely. If there is a rapid noticeable difference in any area, that's a clear indication that you are dealing with gluten sensitivity and cutting it out will greatly benefit your long term health.
Finally, if you find that you have Celiac Disease or Gluten Sensitivity, have no fear, there is plenty of support out there. There are numerous gluten-free blogs, support groups, and doctors who specialize in this area. Labeling for gluten-free foods and restaurants that offer gluten-free options are becoming more and more common. Anyone who has found relief in going gluten-free will tell you it is worth the effort. Once those nagging symptoms subside; you regain your energy, headaches disappear, brain fog lifts and your digestive issues start clearing up - there is just no turning back!
To Your Good Health!