By Linda Bergersen

Gluten-free has become this decade’s nutritional buzzword, but do you really need this type of diet? Not everyone does. But if you’ve been tested, and know you are gluten intolerant, beware of the gluten-free foods on the market; most are not nutritiously sound.

Gluten is a component of certain grains: wheat, rye, barley, kamut, bulgar, triticale, spelt, durum, and semolina. It is a natural part of these grains, as lactose is a natural part of milk. We have abused milk in a way that makes its natural sugar known as lactose intolerable to people because of the pasteurization process. It destroys the natural lactase enzyme that aids the digestion of lactose. We have abused wheat in various ways making gluten a bad guy. The wheat grain has been manipulated in a way that creates more gluten content. For fifty years we have been subjected to a wheat hybrid called dwarf wheat. It was developed as a way to help feed third world countries, and now it is in the American diet because it grows and yields product faster; but at the same time it contains more gluten, more starch, and creates more inflammation than the wheat we used to eat.

The main problem with wheat and gluten these days is that we all get too much, whether from restaurants, food manufacturers, supermarkets, or home-cooked recipes. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, caused by the sensitivity to gluten, you will surely need to avoid the grains that contain it; but also beware of many other foods that have wheat gluten as an additive; bakers love adding it because it improves texture, flavor, shelf life, and many other reasons. Always look for wheat gluten in the list of ingredients on packaged foods. It’s even in pet food.

Are you eating gluten-free because you think your health issue is gluten related? Does your gut hurt after you eat? Do you get acid reflux? Are you constipated or have diarrhea? Any problem with the intestinal tract is a major concern, but there are various things that could be causing these issues. The best thing to do is see a physician, naturopath or nutritionist to be tested and evaluated. It could be a problem not related to gluten, and most likely it won’t be corrected just by avoiding gluten. Keep in mind, most intestinal issues are related to diet, and mainly consumption of refined, processed foods.

Our gluten sensitivity is growing these days because of the dwarf wheat and the overabundance of refined flours we eat, as well as the gluten additive factor. Here is a list of nutritional gluten-free flours you could look for to replace the gluten grains:

Brown Rice

If you choose to eat gluten-free products, you may be avoiding gluten, but most of the time you will not be getting the nutritional quality ingredients that are most needed. Gluten-free products are often filled with (white, refined) rice flour or rice starch, GMO cornstarch or flour, and potato starch. These are all refined, processed ingredients that have little or no nutritional value, and contribute to weight gain and inflammation. Plus they invariably contain refined sugars as well in the form of glucose, fructose, dextrose, corn syrup, etc.

Nutrition is always about balance, and not indulging in too much of any one type of food. Because the food industry has put more gluten in our foods, we are getting too much of this once natural component.

It’s very hard to avoid wheat and gluten products because they are everywhere, but here are some suggestions. Try not eating breads at restaurants; cook and bake more with oat or brown rice flour (the lack of gluten in recipes can be compensated with the use of xanthan gum); eat oatmeal, amaranth or brown rice instead of toast, bagels or muffins for breakfast. And always read the list of ingredients on packaged foods to look for the additive of wheat gluten.

Since we as consumers have little control on how those in charge manipulate our food, we just have to be careful about what we put into our bodies. By dividing your flour intake between different whole grains, and avoiding all refined grains, intestinal problems may subside. It’s the refined, processed foods that will get you into trouble eventually.

Get back to real foods, and your body will love you for it.