Most Americans consume gluten through wheat, but it is found in rye, barley, spelt, kamut, and bulgur and is one of the most common food additives in the world. It is also used in processed foods and personal care products. It is sometimes present in oats. Pure oatmeal does not contain gluten. However, most oatmeal brands on the market today are not pure — they contain oats that have been cross-contaminated with a tiny bit of wheat, barley and/or rye. Since those grains do have gluten in them, that cross-contamination makes most oatmeal brands unsafe on the gluten-free diet. Be sure to find oats that say gluten-free.
Gluten is made of two groups of proteins, the glutenins and the gliadins. There are 12 different smaller units that make up gliadin. A person could be sensitive to either of the protein groups or any of the smaller units. Sensitivity leads to inflammation. Gluten sensitivity does not mean that you have Celiac disease. Celiac disease is what happens when an allergic reaction to gluten causes damage specifically to the small intestine. Gluten sensitivity can involve any organ in the body including the brain.
Inflammation is the cornerstone of many brain disorders which can be initiated when the immune system reacts to a substance in a person’s body. When antibodies (also known as immunoglobulin, is a large Y-shape protein produced by B cells that is used by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects such as bacteria and viruses) of the immune system come in contact with a protein or antigen (foreign object) to which a person is allergic, the inflammatory cascade is provoked. This releases a whole host of damaging chemicals known as cytokines.
Cytokines are highly antagonistic to the brain, damaging tissue and leaving the brain vulnerable to dysfunction and disease especially if the assault continues. Elevated cytokines are seen in Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and even autism.
So why is gluten all of sudden so bad? The grains we eat today bear little resemblance to the grains that entered our diet 10,000 years ago. In the 17th century, studies were being done of crossing different plants to arrive at new varieties. Our genetic makeup and physiology haven’t changed much since the time of our ancestors, our food chain has had a rapid makeover during the past 50 years. Modern food manufacturing, including bio-engineering and specifically hybridization, have allowed us to grow structurally-modified grains that contain gluten that is less tolerable than the gluten that’s found in grains cultivated just a few decades ago.
We can be gluten sensitive and not even know it. There are tests that can be done to detect whether or not you are sensitive. Today’s American food pyramid pushes for a high carbohydrate, low fat diet. This pyramid needs to be turned upside down. It’s no wonder why there is so much sickness and disease in the world. Our bodies do not need that many carbs, they need protein and our brain needs fat. Our brains love fat. When we eat too many carbs, we eat less fat.
The best fats to look for:
Coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, flaxseed oil, nut oils (walnut, pecan, macadamia).
Stick with the oils above for your cooking and salads and you won’t go wrong.
-For cooking, coconut oil is king! It has a high burn temperature and is extremely healthy.
-For salads, olive oil and avocado oil are kings. Be generous while you drizzle.
Nuts & Seeds:
Healthy nuts like pecans, walnuts and macadamia nuts have good levels of omega-3. These make great snacks. Move over chips!
FYI: Peanuts are not nuts. They are legumes and should be avoided for these reasons:
1. Low in nutritional value
2. They contain phytates- for the most part – just prevent minerals in a particular food from being absorbed and also inhibit the functioning of certain enzymes that are critical to digestion
3. They contain lectins- The 2 main effects of lectins are that they cause “Leaky Gut” and they lead to increased inflammation in your gut. Both of these things may not cause any immediate problems when you eat lectins, but they often lead long-term to all sorts of problems.
4. They are high in protease inhibitors – your body starts producing too much of certain enzymes. When this happens, it can lead to all sorts of problems like Leaky Gut, chronic inflammation, and allergic reactions.
Soy is particularly bad about this, but most legumes are quite high in protease inhibitors.
5. Have Carbs and Can Stall Weight Loss
6. Contains phytoestrogens – Phytoestrogens are not actually estrogen, but they act like estrogen. Inside your body, phytoestrogens bind to the same receptors that estrogen binds to, but phytoestrogens give a much weaker signal than estrogen. Because the signals are weak, your body will often over-produce estrogen, which will disrupt your entire hormonal system.
What are bad fats? Anything high in omega-6 fatty acids, polyunsaturated fats, or anything that was man-made.
-Avoid the following fats:
Margarine, man-made oils (hydrogenated & partially hydrogenated oils), canola oil, corn oil, vegetable oil, soybean oil, grape seed oil, safflower oil, peanut oil, and sunflower oil.
Signs of gluten sensitivity:
ADHD, depression, anxiety, brain fog, dairy intolerance, heart disease, IBS, hives, migraines, sugar cravings, cancer, infertility, autism, neurological disorders, autoimmune disorders, and the list goes on.
Please consider removing gluten from your diet. Research shows that many ailments can be reversed when eliminating gluten from your diet. Following a Paleo/primal lifestyle is one way, but just avoiding gluten all together is an important step in the right direction.
This is just a brief overview of how gluten can affect your body. To get more in depth information, please read Dr. Perlmutter’s book Grain Brain.