If you’re like the people in the Jimmy Kimmel clip I posted earlier this month, you MIGHT know that gluten is found in bread and other products made with wheat…but that is where 99% of people’s knowledge stops. I am still learning the ins and outs of gluten and how to live a gluten-free lifestyle, but am finally starting to grasp how gluten affects the human body and even the brain.
So, let’s dig into the mystery behind gluten! Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. This means that unless noted as gluten-free, most breads, pastas, cereals, beers, and even malt vinegar are off limits. If you suffer from Celiac Disease or have a gluten sensitivity, ingesting gluten will mess up many body functions and can worsen pre-existing conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It can cause gas, bloating, fatigue, and malabsorption of nutrients, just to name a few effects. When your body isn’t absorbing the nutrients that it needs or you’re feeling blah all of the time, this can lead to the onset of anxiety and depression in some people. In the few weeks that I have avoided gluten, I have noticed that my stomach feels more normal- compared to what I thought was a normal-feeling stomach before. I think it even looks more toned and flatter without exercising as much as I used to.
I’ve also learned this month that gluten pops up when you least expect it! As I was about to dig into what was otherwise a gluten-free salad, I realized my dressing contained gluten as a thickening agent. I quickly switched out that dressing for some trusty olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Close call! Even most soy sauce contains gluten (unless noted otherwise on the container). So be careful before you drown your sushi!
While it’s easy to accidentally consume gluten, I haven’t missed it as much as I thought I would. I’m learning to be thankful for corn tortilla chips so I don’t have to lick my beloved queso out of the bowl. Gluten-free pizza crust is also a new favorite of mine. This can be extremely hit or miss. For a definite hit, I highly recommend Mellow Mushroom- they have perfected this dietary necessity! (Find the location nearest you at http://mellowmushroom.com/locations.)
People have been eating bread for thousands of years. Even Jesus referred to bread as his body and many people eat bread on Sundays during communion to signify this historical event (luckily, my church has a gluten-free communion stand). Heck, the country of Italy would probably cease to exist if you told its citizens that they can no longer use wheat flour for pasta or pizza crust! Don’t even get me started on taking beer away from college students. Despite the prevalence of gluten around the world, I invite you to join me in being gluten-free for a month to see how it affects you! If you don’t notice any changes, feel free to return to guzzling beer between bites of thick-crusted pizza.
*Information was obtained from The Celiac Disease Foundation’s website. See http://www.celiac.org for more details.