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Going gluten-free just because?

 

When did tearing into a loaf of freshly-baked baguette start to feel like lighting up a cigarette- a health faux pas enough to elicit gasps from people around you? It wasn’t too long ago when you had to take time to explain to folks what “ being celiac” entails. The promise of clearer skin, mental clarity, and flatter bellies made everyone in the wellness community ask, “Should I give up gluten?” And they did. Bread became a dirty word.

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Is gluten bad for everyone?

In the murky haze of our gluten-free frenzy, one truth we hold as self-evident is that sufferers of celiac disease cannot and should not eat gluten. It makes them sick. Fact. But for the rest of us, confusion exists around what some doctors refer to as a gluten intolerance. This is different from celiac disease in that it's often self-diagnosed, and falls on a spectrum of sensitivity as opposed to a clear medical condition.

There is no doubt gluten intolerance is real.  It is called non-celiac gluten intolerance (read more here). But not everyone who thinks they are gluten intolerant is.

I think it is interesting to consider all possible root causes of what people could be reacting to. Sure, some people are sensitive to the actual gluten protein, but could other people be reacting to glyphosate, the pesticide (and antibiotic) that most wheat is sprayed with? Or could the sensitivity be caused by a microbial imbalance in the gut? Or are people reacting to the FODMAPS in foods? There is definitely more research to be done around this.

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Gluten-free or not?

Before I get called out on being a hypocrite when I post a picture of sourdough on my Instagram, I just want to share with you my stance on gluten. And also the fact that bread and bread-making makes me immensely happy.

Give me a processed gluten-free muffin and a wild fermented ancient grain gluten bread and chances are my “gluten- free” diet is out the window. Just like fat-free foods are laden with sugar and sugar-free foods are full of artificial sweeteners, gluten-free packaged foods are often full of high-glycemic ingredients like brown rice flour or potato starch or sugar. Read the labels and ask questions relentlessly! Be wary of gluten-free products containing too much rice flour as an ingredient. Studies have found commercially grown rice to contain high levels of mercury and arsenic.

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If you were going to eat bread, don’t just eat ANY bread

Natural food enthusiasts like Michael Pollan maintain that most supermarket breads and other glutenous packaged foods are a product of a food processing that has deviated so far from the old world baking process, it hardly resembles the bread of our ancestors. 

I have found that fermentation and/or sprouting of gluten can make a big difference in how I digest and react to it. Knowing the provenance of my grains have also made me somewhat of a grain snob but I feel empowered.

If you're not celiac or clinically gluten intolerant, it may be time to turn a new loaf, so to speak, and seek out alternatives. My sourdough will be waiting for you.