Ask The Macro Manager: What Is Gluten And Is It Unhealthy?
This may not sound like the most popular answer, but gluten isn't necessarily bad. Over the past several years, "gluten free" is a term that has been tightly associated with "healthy."
Like most food crazes picked up by the mainstream, the gluten connection isn't as cut and dry as you might think.
My wife has celiac disease (the medical term for having a gluten allergy), so my household has been gluten free for nearly eight years now. I have spent a great deal of time researching gluten, gluten's physiological effects, and gluten-free diets. What I've learned might surprise you.
Gluten is a protein primarily found in wheat. It works like glue, serving as a protein adhesive that binds your food. Without gluten, all baked goods would be as flat as pancakes.
These are some common foods that contain gluten:
Because gluten can act as a thickener, it works its way into other food products like sauces and marinades. Gluten also sneaks into our diet through cross-contamination.
Oats are a perfect example: They don't contain gluten, but they are often processed in facilities that process gluten-containing grains.
Thus, oats get contaminated with gluten. If you have gluten issues, seek out gluten-free oats.
Unfortunately, determining if your body has problems with gluten is difficult. We often associate a gluten intolerance or allergy with intestinal symptoms such as diarrhea and bloating.
If your body has an aversion to gluten, you could suffer from nearly 300 different symptoms, many of which have little to do with these symptoms.
Testing for gluten intolerance can be done in a variety of different ways. Here's the rundown in order of how you should test.
The first step is to cut out foods containing gluten for at least 14 days.
Keep a written log of what you eat, your bathroom habits, how you feel, and anything else—including the clearing up of acne.
After two weeks, add gluten back into your diet for at least another 14 days.
Continue the processes of
logging your food and your
You're looking for the appearance of new symptoms. You may notice reappearing symptoms that you didn't consider previously.
If you notice changes in your body, bathroom habits, or digestion during the elimination and subsequent reintroduction of gluten, I'd cut gluten from your diet. Gluten testing is wrought with false negatives.
Feeling better is the most important thing. If you feel better, listen to your body and take note.
Depending on the results of your modified elimination diet, you may want to move onto professional testing. There are two different companies I recommend:
EnteroLab is a Texas-based laboratory that looks at your DNA to see if you carry celiac disease or gluten sensitivity genes. They have a variety of different tests at different price points depending on the detail of the testing you want.
Cyrex Laboratories comes recommended from a colleague of mine, Dr. Brooke Kalanick, ND. Cyrex is unique in that they look not just at gluten, but reactions to gluteomorphins, which are byproducts of our body's digestion of gluten.
Most people won't reach this step. At this point, your doctor must be involved, although I recommend they become involved at step one.
Intestinal biopsy is considered the gold standard of diagnosing celiac disease.
Most people won't get to this step
because it comes with its own risks.
If I suspected I had issues with gluten,
I would rather just cut it out of my diet instead of getting biopsied to prove the point.
If you do go gluten free, the good news is that you will most likely start eating less carbs, which is good for your body fat. Gluten-free nutrition requires some switches in your diet with certain foods, but most will stay the same.
Here is a list of common bodybuilding foods and what impact (if any) going gluten free has on them.
- Protein powder: No change
- Meal replacement shakes: Read the label, some of the fibers used contain gluten
- Protein bars: Read the label, some of the carbs and fibers used contain gluten
- Meats/proteins: No change
- Oats: Buy gluten-free oats
- Rice: No change
- Pasta: Switch to brown rice pasta (better texture than most corn pastas)
- Potatoes or yams: No change
- Bread: Switch to gluten-free bread or simply eliminate bread. The flours used to make gluten-free bread are very refined, so I recommend eliminating bread entirely.
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Snickers has alot to say about sodium, fat and sugar. In fact, the same scientist are willing to sell their trade secrets to McDonalds famous french fry recipe as well. I love the saying, common sense isn't so common.
Not useful at all.... what about all the dicussions on exorphins produced by wheat/gluten that make us hungry and activate the pleasure sensors in the brain much like Narcotics? Also this article needs to discuss the fact that eating two pieces of wheat bread will spike your blood sugar levels higher and longer than a snickers candy bar.
You should check out some useful information, found right here on this page. It's the title. Right up there ^. Sufficiently answered following the title are questions like "What is Gluten?", and "Is it unhealthy?".
Exorphins are not harmful to your average person. It's a problem when it leaks from your gut (hint: this is not a problem for most people). Just like dookie-butter is not harmful unless it leaks from the intestine.
Also, did you know that insulin spikes are necessary for, um, survival? If you're diabetic, then be conscious; but that goes with all carb intake, not just wheat bread. But, anyway, don't try to justify all the candy bars you consume. I'll take my wheat bread over Snickers any day.
Sorry but I expected more when I saw the article headline. I have been wheat free for the past 3 months and after the first two weeks had a dramatic fat / weight loss. Note this is not Gluten free however my focus was to remove all wheat and flour by products from my diet. It was just a trail run to remain low glycemic. But since I now avoid all snacks due to a no wheat diet I will continue with it. The noted issue most people have with wheat gluten is that is clogs the small intestine villi and therefore you cannot absorb food etc feel bloated.
*just my 2cents and I am always looking to more info so if any of my statement are incorrect do let me know.
"The noted issue most people have with wheat gluten is that is clogs the small intestine villi and therefore you cannot absorb food etc feel bloated."
This is sort of true. If you have an allergy to gluten (i.e. celiac disease) then you have an autoimmune response which causes your intestinal villi to become damaged and flatten. This leads to mal-absorption which causes the bloating.
Gluten intolerance (which is different from a gluten allergy) doesn't have the autoimmune response and villi flattening.
theres many different levels of sensitivity to gluten you have people that can eat oats and others that cant even being grown in there own fields and filtered to couple parts per million. If you feel better after eliminating wheat then go the extra mile and eliminate all gluten containing foods. Now when you do eat gluten when it travels through your body it kills your vili they dont flatten and and they take a few months to grow back. and by also eating it you body makes organ specific antibodies that attack certain parts of you body. For me it was my lungs. I know this from attending many gf conventions from speakers online and sitins 14 years of them
You didn't mention anything about Celiac Disease. For those interested in doing more research I would recommend the Celiac Foundation. Those with Gluten Intolernance and Celiac Disease digest proteins and nutrients differently(possibly) ... which can be problematic when trying to get results from the great content on this website...
"This may not sound like the most popular answer, but gluten isn't necessarily bad"
Sounds like the the right answer to me..people need to get their heads out of the clouds and learn to understand the difference between pseudoscience in the media and actually science....if you do not have an intolerance to gluten then cutting it out of your diet is pretty pointless.
My friend is gluten free and she swears by it. I do however think that it can be taken too far. If a crumb enters her food she will send it back. What is the affect of specks of gluten on the body?
This article didn't deliver the information it boasted in the beginning. It gave no argument as to why gluten might not be the enemy. Just because you don't see physical symptoms doesn't mean your body tolerates gluten. Most people also eat gluten containing products in place of other whole healthy foods.
More than anything, I notice I'm listless after eating gluten (or, really, grains in general). I think some people are sensitive to it without having the typical intestinal/digestive issues. Like Dr. Mike says, and no matter what the science says, listen to your body and you'll probably feel infinitely better.