What does it mean to be gluten-free?
Content from Amber Approved Magazine May 2015 Issue: Living Gluten-Free: Everyone’s Doing It by Tessa-May Marr, Founder of GFYYC
These days, the term “gluten-free” has become pretty standard in society’s vocabulary. You hear it in restaurants, at grocery stores, from your friends and family, and even on the news. It seems the “buzz” about gluten-free has grown significantly in the last 5-10 years. Most of us probably don’t remember this being a hot topic when we were growing up. This begs the question: Why now? Why does gluten all of a sudden matter so much? Why do we all suddenly hate it? Is this just a fad, destined to run it’s course and die along with Tamagotchi’s and flare jeans, or is this stuff really as bad as it seems? And if that’s the case, why did we all live just fine with it up until recently?
Well, things have changed in the last 5-10 years. We know much more about our bodies and digestion, and we’re much more willing to experiment. Also, the amount of information we have access to has grown exponentially with the dawn of the Internet, and that has turned us into curious, experimental minds and has us all sharing information as quickly and frequently as we are consuming it.
What people are finding is there are some very serious upsides to living gluten-free. We’ve highlighted below some of the reasons that people are choosing to limit their gluten intake or cut it out entirely. This is not to say everyone SHOULD or MUST live gluten-free. We all make our own diet decisions and we all know our own bodies best (and if you need help understanding yours, give Amber a call, or another local nutritionist and they can help!).
At GFYYC, our community is made up of anyone who lives gluten-free, part-time or full-time. We don’t discriminate—and we also don’t try to convert anyone to living and eating this way. We do, however, bring together information and resources (including a variety of delicious recipes) that will be helpful for everyone. If you find one of the reasons above compelling enough to start making gluten-free choices, you have a place to go and most importantly, you are not alone!
How does it effect my body?!
Some may have quite a strong negative and/or uncomfortable reaction in their bodies in the presence of gluten beyond the bloating and general discomfort most of us feel. (They may describe themselves as gluten sensitive or allergic to gluten.) These reactions can range from skin rashes to brain fog, dizziness, weight gain and even sometimes more severe reactions such as blackouts, anxiety and extreme emotional mood changes. I know—scary stuff, right? Probably the most common complaint from people who are sensitive to gluten is “tummy trouble”. This could be pain, cramping, gas, constipation or even the ever-so-pleasant diarrhea.
Specific symptoms vary. Bottom line though, when these people digest gluten it is incredibly unpleasant and may put them out of commission for hours, afternoons, even a couple of days. Often, these symptoms have previously been diagnosed by doctors as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and people have simply accepted the fact that this is just their reality and a good portion of their lives will just have to be spent in the bathroom. Now, with this new information linking these types of symptoms to gluten, this can be remedied (for some—IBS is still a thing—although a nutritionist could help you link this to another specific food sensitivity that, when removed from your diet, could provide relief of symptoms). Imagine how happy these people are to learn this, and how much time they can get back with less hours logged in the toilet. The possibilities are endless!
Fatigue & Bloating
I bet you can recognize the difference in how you feel after you have a big bowl of pasta for lunch versus a crisp, veggie and protein-filled salad. There are certain foods that just simply affect our bodies differently because of their make-up. Carbs that are heavy (and full of gluten) often leave us feeling bloated and fatigued. These feelings can be unwelcome mid-afternoon on a workday when you’re struggling to stay awake to finish your daunting task list before you can clock out for the day. Some of us have pinpointed this feeling and therefore make decisions to avoid it (especially in certain circumstances). This could be a decision we make on a case-by-case basis, as well, not necessarily a long-term, unwavering commitment.
Now this is a far from a fad, and doctors will confirm this. Celiac disease is a very real thing for the people that suffer from it. In a nutshell, it means that when gluten is present in a Celiac’s small intestine, their immune system begins to attack itself, and wears down their villi, which are super important for absorbing nutrients their body needs to get from all the other food they consume. With less nutrients being absorbed, their body is susceptible to so many other failures and diseases and can suffer averse long-term effects. Still, I’m sure you’re wondering why you’re hearing so much more about this disease nowadays then you did back when your grandmother was around? I thought so.
Two things have changed. First, doctors are now asking more questions and they have access to more information. They’re digging deeper. They know more than ever. And they’re able to find causes like never before. It’s amazing the portion of our elderly population who are just finding out now that they have had Celiac disease their whole lives (and are now understanding some of the affects this has had over the years). Secondly, the actual wheat we consume is different. Without getting into too much detail, the genetic make-up of wheat changed in and around the 1950s, so that farmer’s could yield more crop from their plots of land. This significantly increased the amount of gluten present in the wheat we consume. (For more details on this, read Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis. He’s better at explaining it, anyway.)
Wait… What is gluten, anyway?
(Let’s ask Wikipedia)
Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue“) is a protein composite found in wheat and related grains, including barley and rye. Gluten gives elasticity to dough, helping it rise and keep its shape and often gives the final product a chewy texture. Gluten is also used in cosmetics, hair products, and other dermatological preparations.
The Canadian Celiac Association provides information, support, resource and events for those living with Celiac disease. We are proud to partner with the Calgary Chapter. In fact, our Founder even sits on the board!
Amber Romaniuk is a holistic nutritionist in Calgary who is passionate about living gluten-free, dairy-free and sugar-free. If you’re not sure where to start with your symptoms, talk to her! She can help!
Follow our blog for weekly recipes, events and relevant information.
Want to do more? Volunteer with GFYYC! We are a community-powered organization and can always do more things with more help. Whether it be blogging, speaking, working an event or even research, you can help!