Good Gluten Gone Bad: Dr. Bakker’s Guide to Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease
November 26, 2013 | Published by Dr. Eric Bakker
To gluten, or not to gluten
Have you been thinking about going gluten free, but fear the thought of complex recipes using obscure, tasteless ingredients? Many of my patients who want to go gluten free think they are heading for a world of joyless, bland food. But this couldn’t be further from the truth—with accurate information and a little imagination you will be making delicious, gluten-free food with no troubles (and likely wondering what all the fuss was about in the beginning!).
Is gluten actually bad for me?
Of the many patients I have seen in my clinic over the years, the ones who avoid gluten tend to be amongst the healthiest. Why is this? Because avoiding foods containing gluten (and wheat products in general) tends to benefit one’s digestive system, and a healthy digestive system is vital to good whole-body health. You don’t have to be gluten intolerant to avoid gluten. I am not gluten intolerant myself, but I do avoid gluten and wheat as much as possible and shy away from virtually all types of bread, biscuits, crackers and baked (flour) goods.
What exactly is gluten, anyway? Gluten is a complex protein made up of many smaller components, including the simple protein, gliadin. Gliadin is often considered to be the toxic component of gluten. Recent research suggests that gliadin is one of the leading causes of intestinal damage in the Western world, where a large chunk of gluten and wheat products are consumed. In people with a gluten intolerance, the body does not process gliadin properly. When a food or drink containing gluten is consumed, the immune system sees gliadin as an invading object and goes on alert. The immune system then launches an aggressive attack by creating specific antibodies to fight against the gliadin. One of the side effects of this epic battle is inflammation, which can result in stomach pain. Those with a gluten intolerance who consume gluten on a regular basis stand to cause serious potential damage to the intestinal tract and other parts of the body, like the brain and neurological system.
Celiac disease and gluten: Enemies for life?
If you have celiac disease, your body treats gluten as a harmful substance, leading to digestive inflammation and irritation. This can lead to the lining of the small intestine becoming damaged. Since many nutrients are absorbed through this lining, celiac disease can lead to deficiencies in minerals and other nutrients. If you are a true celiac (diagnosed by way of a small intestine biopsy, not just a blood antibody test), consuming even the smallest traces of gluten can cause serious and lasting health problems. The most common problems associated with celiac disease originate in the digestive system and include diarrhea, bloating, constipation, stomach pain, and ulcers and lesions. Non-digestive specific problems include significant weight loss, osteoporosis, migraine headaches, chronic fatigue, iron-deficiency anemia, and mood disorders such as depression and irritability.
Managing celiac disease and gluten sensitivity
The only way to truly get a grasp on celiac disease and gluten sensitivities is to avoid gluten in any and all forms. For many, the only real option is to avoid gluten on a lifelong basis, as difficult as this may be. Each meal needs to be adapted and made with careful consideration of ingredients, and finding gluten-free options in a restaurant can be especially tricky. For some, assistance from a dietician experienced in gluten-free diets can be helpful.
Ingredients and food products to avoid
Baking ingredients are the most common sources of gluten, but it is also often used in processed foods where flour is used as a binder, filler or processing agent. Wheat starch is processed to remove the protein, but it still contains some traces of gluten as it is not possible to remove all protein. Note: When flour is used as a processing agent, or as part of another compound, it does not have to be declared on the label. Here are some common food sources of gluten:
- Wheat flour and wheat products
- Bulgur wheat
- Cake cereal filler
- Cereal protein
- Modified wheat starch
- Oats pasta
- Soy Sauce
- Triticale wheat
- Wheat breakfast cereals
- Wheat starch
- Wheat germ
Living gluten free can be quite challenging and frustrating at times, but it doesn’t have to mean eating joyless food forever. For a list of recipes and tips, check out the gluten-free food guide on my website.
About the Author: Eric Bakker B.H.Sc. (Comp.Med), N.D, R.Hom. is a highly experienced naturopathic physician who has been in clinical practice for 25 years. Eric is passionate about improving people’s lives through proven wellness and lifestyle principles, natural medicine practice as well as public and professional practitioner education. Eric specialises in candida yeast infections, as well as adrenal fatigue, and thyroid disorders. Dr. Bakker has written one of the most comprehensive books on yeast infections called Candida Crusher. Website: candidacrusher.com You can complete his online survey to determine if you have a yeast infection here, or link through to his many You Tube videos: www.yeastinfection.org Dr. Bakker’s Blog: www.ericbakker.com
Categorised in: Digestive Health