Not sure about you, but the smell of bread baking still gets us every time!! Waking up to a piece of toast with butter and peanut butter is a distant memory! Cakes, muffins, pancakes….these are all items we ate throughout our childhood, with no obvious repercussions. Why is it that these days, when the majority of us eat gluten or any products containing gluten, we bloat, feel sluggish or nauseous, have indigestion or acid reflux or chronic diarrhoea? Is it related to our general nutrition, health, the climate/toxins or the bread recipes we use?
Before we answer this hot topic question – let’s first familiarise ourselves with what gluten is exactly.
Gluten is a protein composed of glutenin and gliadin molecules and it can be found in grains like wheat, barley, and rye. Any product made from these grains will contain gluten in them like regular bread, pasta, etc. In recent years, gluten has also become one of the more common ingredients of many processed foods. Gluten as an ingredient provides elasticity and that chewy texture to bread and it also provides stability and modifies the structure of certain products like prepared sauces and dressings.
Why is gluten getting such a bad rap?
Because it is not suitable for people suffering from celiac disease. The Celiac Disease Foundation defines celiac disease as a serious autoimmune disorder that can occur in genetically predisposed people, where the ingestion of gluten leads to damage in the small intestine. When people with celiac disease consume gluten, their body creates an immune response that attacks the small intestine, leading to inflammation and the atrophy of the villi. This can interfere with the absorption of nutrients from food and cause a host of symptoms. Some symptoms include diarrhoea, bloating, distension, stomach pain, constipation, and nausea in both children and adults. However, adults also tend to experience symptoms such as fatigue, anaemia, depression, anxiety, headaches, joint pain, canker sores in the mouth, and infertility among others. The absence of healthy villi leads to malnutrition and can have serious health consequences like osteoporosis, infertility, nerve damage, and seizures among others.
It is also a problem for people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, as they experience gastrointestinal and extra-intestinal symptoms similar to Celiac disease like abdominal pain, diarrhoea, bloating, constipation, brain fog, headaches, chronic fatigue, etc. The only differences are that intestinal biopsies show no damage and their blood tests do not have celiac disease antibodies.
You might be thinking:
“I don’t fall under these categories, so does that mean that I can eat gluten and it isn’t bad for me?
The answer to this question might surprise you because unfortunately, the answer is no, gluten is still potentially bad for you. Dr. Alessio Fasano and his team discovered that the component in gluten called gliadin stimulates the release of zonulin, a protein that prompts the opening of the tight junction between the cells in the gut lining. The resulting release of zonulin was observed in individuals with and without celiac disease. So as we ingest more gluten, we also ingest more gliadin triggering more zonulin to be released, causing inflammation and immune reactions.
One final point we need to consider, is whether GM (Genetically Modified) grains are safe or not. It’s not so much the fact that the grain is genetically modified, but more about the herbicide they use called Roundup, which contains glyphosate. Glyphosate has been known to cause gut imbalances, affecting the gut bacteria, which in turn makes the gut more permeable allowing food particles to escape into the bloodstream. This causes more inflammation and immune reactions that may increase the risk of various autoimmune disorders, just as the gliadin/zonulin link does. This condition of increased intestinal permeability is called the leaky gut syndrome, and it has been linked to numerous medical conditions including cancer.
So, with these latest discoveries, it seems we can benefit from either decreasing or avoiding gluten in our diet. We’re lucky that there are so many options these days. Here are some alternative grains that do not contain gluten:
Wild rice – brown, black, red
Corn grits (although corn can be GM, so best avoided)
Oats (as long as it says on the packaging that they’re gluten-free meaning they were not made in a plant that also packages wheat to avoid contamination)
Alternatively, nut flours can also be used for baking instead of flours that contain gluten.
Bottomline, according to our research and findings, we feel that Gluten really can be quite bad for you. But, we are all individuals and our bodies handle gluten and its effects differently. If you have any concerns, please speak to a medical professional before deciding to give up gluten or any other major food group.
Fasano, Alessio. “Zonulin, regulation of tight junctions, and autoimmune diseases.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2012, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pic/articles/PMC3384703/. Accessed March 2011
1 cup / 135g sunflower seeds
½ cup / 90g flax seeds
½ cup / 65g almonds
1 ½ cups / 145g rolled oats (make sure to check that they are gluten-free oats)
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
4 Tbsp. psyllium seed husks (3 Tbsp. if using psyllium husk powder)
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt (add ½ tsp. if using coarse salt)
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
3 Tbsp. melted coconut oil
1 ½ cups / 350ml water
1. In a flexible, silicon loaf pan combine all dry ingredients, stirring well.
2. Whisk maple syrup, oil and water together in a measuring cup. Add this to the dry ingredients and mix very well until everything is completely soaked and the dough becomes very thick (if the dough is too thick to stir, add one or two teaspoons of water until the dough is manageable).
3. Smooth out the top with the back of a spoon. Let it sit out on the counter for at least 2 hours, or all day or overnight. To ensure that the dough is ready, it should retain its shape even when you pull the sides of the loaf pan away from it.
4. Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C.
5. Place the loaf pan in the oven on the middle rack, and bake for 20 minutes.
6. Remove bread from loaf pan, place it upside down directly on the rack and bake for another 30-40 minutes. Bread is done when it sounds hollow when tapped. Very important note: Let it cool completely before slicing!
7. Store bread in a tightly sealed container for up to five days. Or store it in the freezer to keep for 3 months. Just make sure to slice the loaf before freezing for quick and easy toasting when ready to enjoy!
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