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What is Gluten? And Why Should I Avoid It?

Gluten is an inflammatory protein found in certain grains (barley, rye, some oats, wheat, and spelt.)  It gives breads and baked goods their chewy texture and fluffiness.   Over the years it has caused a lot of hype and confusion.  Many claim that no one should eat gluten.  Others say that it is really the select few that have celiac disease that need to steer clear.  Understanding what gluten does in the body and the ways in which it digests can help to clear the picture a bit.

What happens in your body when you eat gluten?

Just like everything we consume, gluten must be digested and move through our digestive tract.  Most of our food is broken down into micro particles by the high acidity in our stomachs which are able to be absorbed into the small intestine and then transported through the body to nourish it.

Gluten, however, isn’t broken down fully in the stomach.  The body recognizes gluten peptide as foreign and elicits an inflammatory response.  The inflammatory response in the small and large intestine begins to wear on the lining and eventually creates permeability. When permeability exists in the lining, the body can’t be fully protected from infection and foreign particles and a host of unintended consequences can occur: focus issues, hormonal imbalances, food allergies, chronic immune challenges, and digestive distress, just to name a few.

But I don’t have celiac?  Why can’t I have gluten?

There are varying degrees in which a person can respond to gluten. Individuals with celiac disease have a specific genetic code and antibody response that causes a high amount of inflammation in the body. Other people have different genetic and inflammatory responses to gluten and are considered “gluten sensitive” while not having celiac.  Reactions to gluten sensitivity can be varied but may include digestive distress, hormonal dysfunction, skin issues, fatigue and brain fog. Lastly, there are some that have only a small inflammatory response to gluten and heal more quickly from the inevitable inflammation caused by consuming it.  However, even without a strong reaction, the ongoing inflammation can still lead to issues over time including lack of sleep, stress, blood sugar deregulation and poor diet.

Should you be eating gluten and how inflammatory it is in your body? 

One of the best ways to know if gluten is causing a problem for you is to eliminate it from your diet.  If you are someone who struggles with stubborn weight, thyroid issues, lack of focus, anxiety, mood disorders, chronic pain, sleep issues, digestive dysfunction, auto-immune diseases or generally just not feeling well,  eliminating gluten from your diet is one of the first things to try.  It takes 3 months to completely eliminate the effects of gluten from your system.

Replace it with nutrient dense foods ideally! Try not to over-indulge in every gluten free treats and breads and instead stock up on diverse veggies, leafy greens, cruciferous veggies and mushrooms.  Not only will it help to reduce overall inflammation but also it will help to feed your gut giving it nutrients to thrive and heal.

Real food wins out every time!

About the Co-Author

Kellen Kurtz is a wife, mama, budding athlete, lover of good food & wine and a passionate seeker of health, wholeness and all the good things of life. Kellen works with everyday athletes, families, moms, women and life enthusiasts.

Her journey in nutrition was rocked when, at the age of 3, her son was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes. Since then she has relentlessly searched for holistic solutions to help her son, and entire family, thrive through this life altering diagnosis.

Kellen is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (NTP), Restorative Wellness Solutions Certified and the founder of Rise Nutrition & Wellness.