Getting To Grips With Gluten … And Living Gluten-Free
Living a gluten-free lifestyle means living without bread, pasta, and pizza. It sounded crazy to me six years ago when I was told to cut gluten out of my diet. I wasn’t a big bread eater and mainly ate rye bread and whole-wheat pasta, if at all. However, the thought of going gluten-free was rather daunting.
This has now become my lifestyle, and there is not a day I look back or think of changing my mind. My energy, vibrancy, and overall health have changed remarkably. My hair is thicker, my skin is healthier, my nails are stronger, and I hardly ever get the flu!
Why Go Gluten-Free?
People follow a gluten-free lifestyle for many reasons, including health, intolerances, or allergies. Here are some examples:
- Gluten Intolerance: The body battles to digest the gluten protein, causing digestive problems such as gassiness, abdominal pain, or diarrhoea.
- Coeliac Disease: An auto-immune disease that involves an immune response to the protein gluten. Eating gluten causes damage to the small intestine and results in unfavourable symptoms. The immune system is over-reactive to the antibodies that form in response to gluten.
- Wheat Allergy: The immune system overreacts to wheat, causing symptoms that are serious and possibly life threatening.
- Gluten Sensitivity: This is an umbrella term used to describe an allergy or an intolerance to gluten.
No matter what category you fall in to, the intervention is the same – stay away from wheat and gluten!
What Happens In The Body When You Eat Gluten?
Let’s take a step back to understand the process:
- The intestinal wall acts as a barrier, protecting the body from food particles. Tight junctions help to maintain the integrity of this wall, blocking large and harmful particles from passing into the bloodstream.
- Zonulin is a hormone that can cause gaps in the tight junctions, allowing larger molecules to pass into the bloodstream.
- Gluten digestion upregulates zonulin, resulting in larger gaps in the tight junctions and a compromised gut wall.
- Low calcium is also linked to larger gaps in these tight junctions, as a deficiency will cause gaps to open until a calcium balance is restored.
- When gluten is ingested and not properly digested, the larger and undigested particles are allowed through the tight junctions and into the blood stream. The body recognises this as foreign and signals the immune system to attack. This can result in a number of different inflammatory signs and symptoms.
- By following a gluten-free diet and ensuring optimal nutrition for repair, the lining of the gut wall can repair itself and the body can go back to a healthy being.
Living gluten-free means avoiding all food that contains the protein gluten. This includes wheat, oats, barley, rye, and malt. It may sound difficult, but it is actually one of the easiest diet to follow. Going gluten-free doesn’t mean eating cardboard crackers and bowls of cabbage – there are so many heart-warming and delicious home-made meals to explore. I should know – I make them every day!
I Love Foodies will be sharing some of my favourite go-to gluten-free meals with you, but if you can’t wait that long, have a look at my website Finding Frost for a full gluten-free menu.
Next week I’ll also be sharing some of my favourite go-to gluten-free restaurants in Cape Town with you, so you don’t have to be restricted to cooking at home when following a gluten-free diet!