Gluten-free diets are very popular these days. Have you heard of it?
“Gluten-free” food options are everywhere nowadays—from gluten-free pizza, crackers, bread and oatmeal.
Many people report “feeling better” when they “go off gluten,” including less fatigue, less bloating and constipation, regular bowel movements, and more energy.
And it makes sense—gluten is difficult to digest!
Gluten Defined: What is Gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye that is one of the top most allergenic foods in the world. Gluten proteins are especially rich in two amino acids — proline and glutamine — that are resistant to digestion.
“Gluten-sensitive” individuals don’t have enough digestive enzymes to break down gluten at all, resulting in side effects—anywhere from 1 hour to 72 hours later.
Common side effects from eating gluten include:
- Loose stools
- Headaches & Migraines
- Stuffy Nose
- Popping & Clicking Joints
- Seasonal Allergies
- Hormone Imbalances
- High Cholesterol or Blood Pressure
- Skin breakouts
Unfortunately an estimated 1 in 2 people with gluten intolerance go undiagnosed.
The “Gluten Free” Dilemma
However, what if you HAVE cut out gluten but actually don’t feel much better?
You’re not alone.
One study (Cappanalo et al, 2015) evaluating the effectiveness of a gluten-free diet in patients’ who reported “gluten sensitivity” found that their symptoms did not improve—even with the complete removal of gluten and reintroduction of gluten. A followup study, found a “link” between gluten-free diets and Diabetes risk.
Gluten is only one piece of the puzzle.
Just like“sugar free” yogurt seems healthier—but contains chemicals, like aspartame and food dyes, that make people feel worse— going “gluten-free” alone is not necessarily the only “cure all” for optimal health and nutrition…
Beyond gluten, many people who go “gluten free” end up turning gluten cross-contaminating ingredients—foods with similar components and proteins as gluten that trigger similar gluten-sensitivity symptoms.
Gluten Cross-Contaminating Foods
Here’s a list of 20 Gluten Cross-Contaminating Foods (that you may be sensitive to):
- Coffee (Particularly “instant” and poor quality coffee like Starbucks; Coffee is the highest contaminating food with wheat and gliadin—the main component in gluten)
- Milk chocolate
- Whey Protein & Dairy (Casein)
- Sorghum (Found in gluten free products)
- Tapioca (aka: Cassava; Found in gluten free products)
- Teff (Found in gluten free products)
Gluten & Gluten Free Products are Also Processed
Another factor to consider is the method by which both gluten and gluten-free products are manufactured in the United States.
Unfortunately whether you go “gluten-free diets” or not, most breads, crackers, bars and cereals are equally both processed foods with one ingredient difference (gluten).
Moreover, the gluten we eat in the United States is a night and day difference from the real food gluten eaten in many other countries. Many gluten and gluten-free processed foods contain fillers, enriched flours, additives and chemicals that are equally as hard to digest as gluten itself.
For example, the wheat bread sold at Subway or Kroger is filled with enriched flours, sugars and chemicals like monoglycerides, soy lecithin and monocalcium phosphate —way different than the 3-ingredient homemade, fermented sourdough or fresh baked ciabatta in a cafe in Italy or sold at your local farmer’s market.
Do You Have Gluten Cross Contaminant Sensitivity?
If you continue to experience “gut issues” or food intolerance symptoms after eliminating gluten, it may be worth considering if other gluten cross-contaminating foods are at play, as well as what gut issues may be preventing you from digesting foods in the first place.
Consider working with a functional medicine practitioner can help you get to the bottom of the root cause behind your sensitivities.