I get asked OFTEN: “If I don’t have a gluten allergy – do I really need to avoid gluten?”
Short answer – “If you live in the U.S. – yes.”
I specify “in the U.S.” because part of the reason many react to gluten is because of how processed it is before we consume it. Processing anything applies heat – heat denatures proteins (gluten is a protein) and this denaturing makes it foreign and therefore challenging on digestion. Other countries do not process wheat like the U.S. does, so it is easy to digest.
Obviously, if you have full blown Celiac disease – you need to avoid gluten completely. If you have a sensitivity – I suggest avoiding it specifically in the U.S. and enjoying it in moderation in other countries.
side note: any time we consume something that our body has a histamine // allergic response to – we are creating irritation in the gut – we do this often enough and we are setting ourselves up for a whole host of health issues – some immediate, some down the line.
^^^net, net – take what your body tells you about what you consume, seriously.
Don’t ignore it over and over again and then wonder why you’re not sleeping well, digestion is messy, bloated all the time, struggle to lose weight, etc.
Now, for those that don’t have an observed or given diagnosis for gluten sensitivity — why do I suggest (if living in the U.S.) you should still try to avoid it?
Enter today’s article (3-4 min read).
A significant portion of Westerners have some sort of allergy or intolerance to gluten, which show up as a number of different symptoms from the gut to the brain.
Some examples of how gluten issues show up in the gut:
Constipation // Diarrhea
Lowered Immune Function
Some examples of how gluten issues show up in the brain:
Lethargy // Low Energy
Brain Fog // Memory Issues
According to today’s article – neuro-inflammation could be one potential root cause for the brain issues in the examples listed above.
In the article – researchers assigned male mice to a low-fat or high-fat diet enriched with 4.5% gluten to match the average daily human consumption, for 14.5 weeks. Gluten led to a moderate increase in body fat percentage, but only for the high-fat group.
Moreover, for the groups being fed high fat + gluten AND the groups being fed low fat + gluten – there was a profound increase in microglia and astrocytes observed in the hypothalamus – the part of the brain responsible for regulating body weight and blood sugar. Note that this effect was greatest in the high-fat + gluten groups.
The study suggests that gluten, regardless of diet type (high or low fat), creates an inflammatory response in the brains of mice. And when combined with a high-fat diet, total body weight increases even more.
Whether this is due to gluten’s inflammatory effect on the hypothalamus and its influence on metabolism has yet to be determined.
It is also important to note – because these findings are from a mouse study – it offers a loose interpretation for humans. However, the evidence is enough to suggest that if one has unexplained symptoms (like the examples given above), limitation of conventional wheat in the diet (especially in the U.S.,where wheat is bred for higher gluten content for ultra-processed foods) may be worth a try.
3 final thoughts:
1: If you find you don’t feel well (perhaps you deal with some of the above examples) after consuming gluten – consider what you paired with the gluten.
I’ve found with many clients – if they consume a flour tortilla (contains gluten) for example, with all other anti-inflammatory ingredients (aka greens, raw/unpasteurized cheese, grass fed beef) – they will have no issue with the gluten in the tortilla.
BUT, if they have the flour tortilla with pasteurized dairy, grain fed beef and no greens – they’ll observe some of the examples above.
again, we live in the U.S. – therefore, I think gluten is best avoided as often as possible. BUT – you all know my stance on balance – so, if you WANT something with gluten in it – enjoy it – and stay mindful of what you’re consuming WITH it so that all of your other nutrition is supportive.
2: When trying to avoid gluten – PLEASE keep in mind – just because a product says “gluten free” does not mean it is in fact more nutrient dense. Sometimes it is lower in fiber and higher in sugar. When shooting for gluten free – it is best to consume things that are NATURALLY gluten free – like fruits, vegetables, rice, potatoes…
3: As we enter into cold and flu season + allergies are running high – you NEED your immune system running at top notch. You all know – we do this via sleep, nervous system regulation, consistent exercise, eating high quality nutrition…
If you do not typically pay attention to gluten and you’re finding allergies are crushing you and/or you’re exposed to kids at school, anyone who’s been sick, etc – I suggest getting intentional about your gluten consumption – it will only help you.
sneak peak for next week’s Sunday Wisdom:
sharing my Wellness Protocol for Cold/Flu Season
As always, I’m here for questions!
Take good care of yourself this week!!