Food for Thought: Ten Scary Facts About Gluten
Posted by ivylau on January 12, 2015 - Leave a comment
Ah, the smell of bread baking in the oven- is there any more tempting aroma?
That makes it hard-really hard- to believe there may be something unhealthy about bread. Or possibly even dangerous.
The issue is around gluten, a key ingredient in wheat products like bread. (Gluten is a popular thickener in processed food and is a substance made up of the proteins found in wheat flour that gives bread its structure, strength, and texture).
I (Mark) knew about Celiac disease and secondly, about people who can’t tolerate gluten in their diets (my wife and business partner Ivy is gluten intolerant).
But I didn’t really understand just how serious some of these gluten-triggered diseases were, the painful physical and emotional impacts it has on its victims. And I had no idea about the other potential health problems caused by gluten until I started researching it more deeply a few months ago with the launch of our company, Ivy’s Garden.
Soon I realized this was far more than serious than what I expected, even if in some case (like autism) the link between gluten and certain diseases is not totally conclusive.
I relied heavily on the book Wheat Belly, written by William Davis, a well-known expert and practicing cardiologist who carefully outlines many health problems associated with our gluten diets, starting with obesity.
1. Celiac disease is very serious…but it’s misunderstood. Most people think Celiac disease is a food allergy. Yes, it’s triggered by gluten in wheat, barley, rye and other grains. But Celiac is actually an autoimmune condition, meaning your body’s immune system turns on itself and attacks your own cells and tissue, damaging your small intestine (your body is unable to absorb nutrients from their food). The disease can cause severe abdominal pain, weight loss and digestive problems, but also a wide range of problems from fatigue to skin problems. It can potentially affect almost every part of your body, including your bones and joints. And Celiac disease can strike at any age-whether you’re 25 or 45.
2. We’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg: About 1 percent of the population is believed to have Celiac disease. But only 10 percent of those people have been diagnosed. And millions of more people are believed to be gluten intolerant -and suffer various consequences when they consume gluten- digestive, skin, etc. Then there are the other potential, looming health threats…
3. Gluten may be a major contributor to obesity. Gluten is a “super carbohydrate”- it’s more efficiently converted to blood sugar than almost any other carb food. The result is it rapidly releases glucose into the bloodstream, which is accompanied by insulin-the hormone that ultimately helps convert glucose to fat. Higher glucose=great insulin level=more fat deposited (As Wheat Belly points out, the net result from eating two slices of bread-measured by the glycemic Index- is worse than drinking a soda or eating a Mars bar. Strangely (since many people think Celiacs are warfishly thin) many suffer with weight problems.
4. Gluten may be linked to a wide variety of other diseases including Type 1 diabetes, autism, heart disease, and osteoporosis. The culprit is believed to be highly processed wheat products, and decades of consuming bread, muffins, donuts, pizza, etc.
Gluten triggers insulin release in the pancreas, driving up visceral fat, which in turn causes insulin resistance and inflammation. Over time it damages the pancreas, creating an imbalance of blood glucose and insulin- and ultimately diabetes.
5. Gluten is in…almost everything- Gluten is found in all kind of food and even non-food products: food-from bread to pizza to ice cream, and Soy Sauce. Other gluten infused items include spices, medications, cosmetics and beer. Like sugar and salt, gluten seems to be in everything.
6. We’re overdosing on gluten. The average American consumes about 133 pounds of wheat a year or a bit more than a half of a loaf of bread a day. Wheat makes up about 75 percent of all our carb calories now.
7. The rise in gluten related diseases is likely connected to modern agricultural practices. Various diseases and health problems believed to be caused by gluten coincide w/ growth of “super-wheat” strains, and heavily modified/ processed breads and other wheat products (wheat is the main source of gluten) . Today’s wheat has undergone decades of tinkering by agricultural scientists(high-yielding dwarf strains and new gluten structures aimed to improve growth, weather resistance); today’s bread and other wheat products bear little resemblance to purer products of 50 or 60 years ago.
8. Gluten affects your brain: Gluten apparently affects the brain tissue and nervous system structures, its so-called opiate-like peptides. Several studies mentioned in Wheat Belly link Celiac disease with nervous system issues and dementia. And studies going back 60 years show a connection between high gluten consumption and Schizophrenia.
9. Gluten has drug-like effects on some people. When people stop eating gluten, according to one study cited in Wheat Belly, almost one-third experience withdrawal-like symptoms (mental confusion; irritability; fatigue; even depression) . This might seem bizarre, but if in fact, there is a connection with the brain it all makes sense-sort of like quitting a drug cold-turkey.
10. We are just scratching the surface on the effects of gluten. Even though the connection with Celiac was discovered back in the 1950s, scientists and medical experts are still trying to figure out the long term affects of a gluten-oriented diets. And experts are also still trying to get to the bottom of why some people are affected by gluten, while others are not.
In other words, many questions remain and we’re just beginning to unravel the mystery of gluten and its impact on our health. Some of these diseases and potential health problems will be proven out, some may not. We’re in the early stages of what will undoubtedly be a long journey, with lots of medicals twists and turns.
Product photos and links: S&S chicken, Lemon Chicken and Chicken Nuggets