Food Should Make You Healthy Series: Part Three
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So it’s kinda weird right? All of a sudden you go to the grocery store and everywhere you look is gluten free this and that. From english muffins hard enough to build a solid house to lasagna noodles that taste like pure, organic, cardboard. The gluten free movement isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and once again, instead of being purely driven by science, it’s being hijacked by dollars.
Is gluten really evil? Or are people just making this shit up in order to cash in on yet another health food fad?
If you’re like me you’ve probably asked yourself this question. We’ve certainly seen other fads come and go. Take tofu and soymilk for example. Once upon a time the health conscious among us touted these as essentials to a healthy diet.
When my friend was a vegetarian years back she practically lived on tofu and suffered the hormonal-psycho-freak consequences (her words not mine). Nowadays the health conscious know that it’s best to avoid soy because of the influence it has on your hormones and not to mention it’s almost all GMO.
Is the gluten-free fad just another rendition of the tofu craze?
The answer to that question is kind of confusing. But let’s delve into it, shall we?
What Science Says About Gluten
Gluten in its simplest form is a water soluble protein. Sounds pretty harmless right? Well for about a third of the population that’s not the case. Going beyond Celiac disease brings us to the phenomenon of gluten sensitivity. An autoimmune response in itself which can manifest in the body as inflammation, digestive issues, skin problems, migraines, mood swings and neurological disorders.
When the same friend stopped eating gluten (and soy) her hormonal imbalances disappeared. Had she known it would be that simple she would’ve given up precious french baguettes much sooner. But she had no idea that’s what was causing her hormone problems. Because it sounds strange. People associate gluten intolerance with only digestive issues but in reality it can show up in a myriad of ways.
Many people are sensitive to gluten without even knowing it. Low energy is probably the most common symptom but there are others, like those annoying little bumps on the back of your arm, they can be a tell tale sign that something’s up.
The scientific community has a split opinion on gluten sensitivity. Critics of the gluten-free movement have labelled it as just another fad diet and are quick to say that the only people who shouldn’t eat gluten are Celiacs.
Why disregard millions of people who claim to have negative side effects from wheat? Because wheat is basically a food group in their eyes (and a HUGE industry).
Indeed there is such a thing as non-celiac gluten sensitivity that lacks the primary side effects that full blown celiacs experience (think literal holes in the gut and atrophied microvilli no longer do their job of aiding nutrient absorption).
Ok, so the bottom line of gluten sensitivity and Celiac is that our bodies create an immune response against the protein. In the case of Celiac, this becomes an autoimmune response in which our immune system doesn’t just attack the gliadin protein found in gluten, but also the body’s own cells. Yikes.
Research has found that gluten causes gastrointestinal issues even in those without celiac disease. It also commonly increases the biomarker interleukin 15, a marker that signals the body putting out an inflammatory response. And the thing with every single disease that affects human beings is that they all stem from chronic inflammation, so, uh, pass the muffins?
Interleukin 15 is pretty freaky because it’s also been linked with serious diseases like Alzheimer’s.
Here are just some of the symptoms associated with both Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity…
- Depression and anxiety
- Inflammation and joint pain
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Brain fog and excessive fatigue
- Hormone imbalances like PMS and PCOS
And since humans are strange and random creatures, we all respond differently to gluten. One study showed there are groups of people whose only side-effect of gluten sensitivity is extreme brain fog and lethargy.
Needless to say, going gluten free can be a really beneficial move when done correctly ie. don’t buy into the endless marketing facade of crappy soybean oil laden corn chips being labelled gluten free and “healthy”.
A few benefits of ditching gluten and substituting it with more nutrient dense vegetables include…
- Weight loss (if you’ve got weight to lose)
- Increased insulin resistance (always good)
- Lower inflammation levels
- Treating children with neurological problems like autism
- Helps control Irritable Bowel Syndrome
- Improved nutrient absorption
- Better digestion
- More energy and clarity (hint- equals more results in your business)
If the benefits of ditching gluten and gluten-free dating sites are any evidence, I think it’s safe to say that the movement is here to stay.
Does the idea of not eating bread scare the living crap out of you? I urge you to get creative. Increased productivity and mental clarity is worth its weight in gold when you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re likely familiar with sacrifice already. Now go look at these amazing grain free bread alternatives and you might feel a little less afraid.
The Downlow on Other Grains?
We’ve come to the consensus that gluten isn’t all it’s cracked, pounded and sifted up to be.
But what about other grains? Surely all those healthy whole grains labels can’t all be straight up lies?
Bad news. They are lies. Especially in that they aren’t properly prepared to even be slightly bioavailable or nutritious, but we’ll get into that.
Grains are a modern source of nourishment. Not all things modern are necessarily an improvement and modern agriculture leads a lot to be desired. Our ancestors ate very little grain comparatively speaking, and they were free from the modern diseases that plague us today.
Most people think grains are healthy because of fiber and nutrients. Let’s break these two things down.
- The Fallacy of Fiber
There are two types of fiber in the world, soluble and insoluble. Grains are a source of primarily insoluble fiber. Think of soluble fiber as a sponge and insoluble fiber as a wire scrub brush, passing through your intestines- sounds awesome right? Not so much, and yes we need both types of fiber, but too much insoluble fiber leads to intestinal irritation, excess mucous and it’s not too ideal for your microbial buddies either.
That said, fruits and vegetables contain a more balanced ratio of both types of fibers. No need to stuff ourselves silly with difficult to digest grains.
- Nutrients Schmootrients
There’s actually something called an anti-nutrient. Inherent in certain foods, they are like the punks of the food world. Phytates and lectins, as badass as they may be, are not your friends. And they’re present in every grain there is.
Grains have this evil invisible cloak called a phytate. It’s their protective mechanism against pests, but it doesn’t do humans any favors. Phytates aren’t completely broken down by cooking, leaving this invisible coating that takes more energy to break down than it actually gives back in return.
Lectins are a type of protein present in grains that wreak havoc on our guts. They add to the phenomenon of leptin resistance, which has been linked to obesity. They bind to your stomach lining and all in all do bad things. Some research has even shown that cases of apparent food poisoning are actually lectin poisoning.
The only thing that breaks these nasty components down into a digestible format is fermentation and soaking in an acidic medium. There’s not much for commercial fermented grains out there beyond beer and soaking grains before drying and pulverizing them doesn’t seem to be commercially viable either.
So the option is to do it yourself aka work your ass off in the kitchen OR ditch the grains and swap them for more nutrient dense foods that prove easier to digest.
What Gluten & Grains Do to Your Gut and Why It Matters
Are you clued into the fact that you are literally more bacteria than you are human? It’s pretty mind blowing really. Bacteria matter more than we think, they’re invisible but not like Harry under his magic cloak, more like the wind. Because when your gut bacteria sense a storm approaching, you feel it.
Gut health is only starting to become of mainstream importance. Researchers are discovering the most shocking of links to our overall health and the little kingdoms in our intestines. Everything from depression, skin conditions and allergies can be helped with probiotics.
The most common culprit for poor gut health is antibiotics. You take ‘em and your whole inner world gets flipped around. But a lesser known villain is gluten. It does malicious things to your guts and disrupts the sensitive balance that keeps you feeling a-ok.
Picture the garbage bag under your sink filled with little holes. Little holes become bigger holes, and they let out all sorts of junk. Last night’s leftover tomato eggplant soup, this mornings coffee grounds, plastic, bones from those tasty ribs- you get it, not a pretty picture.
That’s exactly what can happen when people who are sensitive to gluten keep eating it.
We put together a list as to why you should be eating less bread and pastry anyway…if you didn’t want to stop before now you will.
You can download the list by clicking here
Here’s the timeline…
- You chomp down on a tasty ham and cheese sandwich, and an enzyme is released in your gut which breaks down gluten into gliadin and glutenin.
- When you’re gluten sensitive or Celiac (whether you know it or not) your immune system kicks in and recognizes gliadin as a foreign invader.
- The immune system creates antibodies that attack the gliadin in those who are gluten sensitive and attacks the actual enzyme that broke down the gluten to begin with in people who are Celiac.
- That enzyme is responsible for holding together the little microvilli in our guts and when attacked the microvilli start to degrade causing tiny holes in the gut lining.
- Holes in the gut lining is bad news. All sorts of foreign toxins and bacteria, food particles and other nasties that you ingest can get through and enter the bloodstream causing a real problem.
How to Avoid Getting Sucked Down the Processed Gluten Free Rabbit Hole
Here’s the problem most people have when they ditch gluten- they replace it with other refined grains in the form of “healthy” ready-made gluten-free processed foods. This evidently leads to some problems. One study even correlated increased nutrient deficiencies with people who removed wheat from their diet.
It’s like switching from margarine to liquid canola and soy oil…ahem, they’re basically the same thing! The only difference is the lack of gluten, and that doesn’t necessarily make a grain any healthier as we’ve learned above.
To go gluten-free in a healthy sustainable way, you need to follow the simplest rule there is: Just Eat Real Food. I don’t care how amazing the marketing team did to make those wretched gluten free english muffins sound appealing, they’re just gross and not healthy.
Instead of bread, try baking up some sweet potato for your carb fix. Or if you have a real hankering for a grilled cheese, go with sourdough bread made with organic flour. The sourdough culture actually breaks down the gluten molecules making it gluten free, real food style. And trust me, good sourdough is amazingly delicious, and no gluten free bread on the planet could ever rival it.
Now don’t go throwing out your bags of barley and spelt just yet. Should a zombie apocalypse occur, they’ll come in handy.
Not sure why any of this even matters? Check out the first post in this month’s series on diet & nutrition.
PS. -Be sure to sign up for the Newsletter to keep up with all the latest tips on how to hack your way to better health and a better business.
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