Gluten-free; is it gluten or our industrially-produced foods?

While just a small percentage of people actually have celiac disease and require gluten-free food, a significantly larger percentage are choosing a gluten-free diet believing it to be healthier (though sometimes with unrealistic expectations).  At the same time, many are skeptical believing that gluten-free is unnecessary and that “it’s all in the mind.”

Yet, the folks choosing gluten-free are often reporting the same symptoms as celiacs–diarrhea, constipation, stomach pain, fatigue, etc.–and find relief “when they cut out gluten.”

What is actually going on?  While celiac disease has been around at least since the first century, “non-celiac gluten sensitivity appears to be a modern condition” and is found more often in women (“2 to 3 times as many women as men suffer from celiac disease”).  Unfortunately, part of the skepticism is gendered; if women are affected more often, then it must not be real.

“Gluten-free diets yield mixed results.”  However, a recent study that analyzed “the motivation for gluten avoidance” did find that “the reasons for gluten avoidance are in the most part reasoned and logical”  And, that “the vast majority of [study] participants believed that adhering to a gluten-free diet led to improvements.”

Still, humans have been eating wheat and other grains for thousands of years.  “What is it about the grain-based staples that most of us are eating, that could be causing population-wide digestive difficulties?”  What is the food manufacturing industry doing to us?

We are not eating what our ancestors ate.   Wheat today has been bred “to have higher levels of gluten”–at the request of “industrial bakeries and food manufacturers.”  “The more gluten, the fluffier and more voluminous your loaf.”  Grain today is also often “sprayed with pesticides”–especially with glyphosate (a probable human carcinogen).  27 potential allergens have been identified in modern wheat.  Bakery factory workers come down with “baker’s lung.”  Industrial bakeries today add extra gluten to their products; “consumers are eating more gluten now than ever before” in history.

Gluten may not be a “digestive disruptor” on its own in normal/natural amounts, but it could become so when in inadequately fermented forms and when “mixed with pesticide residues, food additives, and processing aids.”

And, unfortunately, industrially-produced non-gluten foods may not be any better.

It is very challenging to eat a real-food diet these days.  Read the article (Joanna Blythman, The Guardian, August 7, 2018).

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