Why Does It Seem like Everyone Has a Gluten Intolerance These Days?

2 years ago, I had never even heard of gluten.  Ok, maybe it was mentioned at some point in my studies in high school or college, but when gluten free products started showing up everywhere, I had to figure out what gluten was and why people were needing to remove it from their diets.

From my readings, I have seen that most sources recommend for people to remove gluten from their diet as a method for improving digestion problems and the symptoms of celiac.  “Gluten (from Latin gluten, “glue”) is a protein composite found in foods processed from wheat and related grain species, including barley and rye. It gives elasticity to dough, helping it to rise and to keep its shape, and often giving the final product a chewy texture.”

(source)

I am not trying to be insensitive to people with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, but doesn’t it seem like this diagnosis has exploded over the past few years?

“Celiac disease is a condition that damages the lining of the small intestine and prevents it from absorbing parts of food that are important for staying healthy. The damage is due to a reaction to eating gluten, which is found in wheat, barley, rye, and possibly oats” (NIH).

For individuals with celiac disease, symptoms can include abdominal pain, constipation, lactose intolerance, depression, fatigue, and unexpected weight loss.   According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), however,  the exact cause of celiac is unknown.  So what is causing it?   Has something changed in the food we’re eating, thus causing Celiac? What are we doing to our bodies to create this intolerance and how can we get better?

(source)

As I shared yesterday, there is some crazy stuff in our foods.  Processed foods are full of so many disgusting fillers, and although it may taste good, what do you think those fillers are doing to your body?  Now I am no doctor, but I’d think that all that extra crap in our foods is making us sick and I’m sure the intolerance to gulten isn’t helping (since it’s in just about everything).

Grains and baked foods containing gluten

Bread and bread rolls Rye bread, pumpernickel Yorkshire pudding
Pretzels Cakes Stuffings and dressings
Muffins Pastry or pie crust Pancakes
Biscuits or cookies Pasta – macaroni, spaghetti, etc. Crispbreads
Bulgar wheat Durham Crumble toppings
Couscous Pizza dough Semolina
Scones Batter Breakfast cereals
All Bran Sponge puddings Breadcrumbed ham
Barley water drinks Malted milk drinks Muesli
Crumpets Barley sugar Dumplings

Foods containing hidden gluten

Sausages Luncheon meat Blue cheese
Gravy powder and browning Matzo flour/meal Shredded suet
Seitan (doesn’t contain gluten, it IS gluten!) Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP) Baked beans
Farina Meat and fish pastes Paté
Self basting turkeys Sauces Communion wafers
Soups Mustards Instant coffee
Brown rice syrup Cheap brands of chocolate Potato crisps/chips
Soy sauce Drinking chocolate Licorice
Chutneys and pickles Salad dressings Curry powder
White pepper Malt vinegar Play Dough
Supplements Some toothpastes Some lipsticks
Some pharmaceutical products Hard candy Imitation crab meat
OXO cubes Beefburgers Oatmeal*

(source)

So here’s the big question, if removing gluten from our diets helps to improve our digestive health and treat celiac, why are we eating gluten to begin with?

Tera Warner shares that removing gluten from your diet can

  • Boost your health and energy
  • Your hormones and weight will naturally balance (uber interesting if you ask me)
  • Your uncontrollable craving to over eat will vanish
  • Untreated gluten intolerance can lead to pre-mature aging and cancer
  • You will absorb more of the nutrients in your food

So what’s my conclusion?  Removing gluten from your diet will only help you, not harm you.  Based on my readings and research, removing gluten from your diet is a positive and beneficial decision.  If you remember my 21 day detox, the plan does not have you eating any gluten and you’re actually only able to add back gluten-free grains on the third week of the diet.  So am I joining the movement?  Not entirely, but I do want to strive to continue to keep over processed foods from my diets and limit gluten-free foods when possible.

(source)

What are your thoughts?

**Please understand that these are just my thoughts and opinions.  I am no doctor, just a curious and observant being.

Comments

  1. Katy says

    TGIF!!!
    I am SO glad you posted this today. I’ve been wandering the exact same thing for the past few years as well. With my weight struggle I often thought I had celiac, though tests proved me wrong, and started researching the whole gluten free diet. My question is (it is also in regards to your post yesterday), if so many foods are made with gluten yet SO many new brands of the same foods are popping up, yet labeled gluten free, what are they making the new foods out of, what’s the hidden ingrediants that don’t contan gluten?? If gluten helps most foods “rise” and “gives elasticity to dough”, what is now making them do that exact thing without gluten??
    Ok, that’s my rant for the day – sorry! ;) But it all comes back to one thing that you point out, eating healthy and clean IS the best way to go!!!

  2. Lily says

    I am a new reader of your blog. Thank you for posting such informative information regarding gluten. I did the whole living 21 day detox as well and I really feel great!! Last night I had a piece of whole wheat toast with eggs for dinner. My stomach was all bloated and gassy – and I felt awful – I don’t think I’m allergic to wheat/gluten but I definitely have a sensitivity to it. I’m going to try to limit my wheat/gluten intake to earlier in the day.

    • says

      Welcome to Coffee Cake and Cardio! I’m so glad you found my blog.

      I’ve had the exact same experiences since the detox. Last night I had some orzo and man did my tummy hurt this AM. It’s hard not correlating the two.

  3. says

    It does seem to have exploded over the past few years.I don’t think it’s necessarily because of the food we eat (that hasn’t really changed for a few decades… maybe a few new chemicals in the processing process, but for the most part, I think it’s the same)but more likely to be diagnosed more by physicians. “Abdominal pain? Migraines? You must be gluten intolerant!” I think it’s something that is diagnosed more because physicians know that cutting out gluten will help you feel better, even if you’re not totally intolerant.

  4. Esther says

    Keep in mind, though, that the opposite may be true of diagnoses. Digestive issues and migraines, which are both symptoms of celiacs, are not fully understood, and so it’s also possible that people who in fact have gluten intolerance weren’t diagnosed as such until recently, because doctors just assumed they had IBS or something. So, while it’s true that the apparent increase in cases of gluten intolerance might be due to overdiagnosis in some cases, it might also be that people didn’t really understand the relationship between gluten intolerance and these symptoms until relatively recently.

  5. says

    I’ve wondered the same thing. Like it’s “cool” to be gluten intolerant. I have certain friends that brag about cooking gluten-free and both claim to be intolerant to it, but they drink beer all the time. Really, I think they just think it sounds cool to say. LAME. Celiac disease is not cool, and I am very thankful that I don’t have it!
    When I was having a bunch of health issues 2 years ago, I went to a nutritionist who put me on a gluten-free diet. I quickly learned that gluten is in EVERYTHING, but discovered a lot of new grains! It sucked massively though- I didn’t eat a speck of gluten for 3 months, and even missed out on my birthday cake and beer when I turned 30 (the restaurant did not have GF options for those things). And I didn’t feel any different not eating gluten- in fact I gained a few lbs. and was bitter and pissed off.
    I think that nutritionist just told every patient of hers that gluten was the enemy. I don’t see her anymore. :)

  6. says

    I was discussing this very thing with my brother in law the other day (he’s currently being tested for gluten-intolerance). I think that the increase in numbers is a result of modern medicine having a better understanding of the disease and as a result can diagnosis it. I know someone who went 20 years with symptoms but was only diagnosed in late 2000.

  7. says

    It’s amazing how much “stuff” is needlessly added to our food. I can’t say I am gluten free because I often don’t look, but I am trying to buy more “whole foods.” My brother-in-law can’t eat anything with MSG in it, so some foods have had to be redone. Like green bean casserole. This year, my sister-in-law made it from scratch – no cream of mushroom soup – and it was DELICIOUS. I think the more we learn to make whole foods the more we will enjoy them, the less we will depend on manufactured food, and hopefully the less manufactured food will be made.

  8. says

    I think that this is a great post! I have recently started to slowly remove some gluten items from my diet. I am not intolerant, but had done some reading and research about gluten ang thought that I would give it a try. I am nearly two weeks into reducing the gluten, and I can really tell a difference. I don’t feel as full all of the time and I have slept SO well. My goal isn’t to remove it completely, because I just don’t think I can, but I did make a conscious decision to remove some, or change some of the foods that I eat. Now I need to work on eating more veggies at night! :)
    I agree with Katy….Clean clean Clean :)

  9. says

    This is a good question. Most people don’t understand it and in the US there is little information.

    The increase in american diagnosis is an increased awareness. It’s been well documented in other countries for years but rarely tested in the US.

    The increase is also because gluten is added to many foods that do not need it to lower the cost. Wheat is cheap to produce so it’s easy to accidentally ingest it.

    However going on a gluten-free diet unless you have celiac disease or gluten intolerance is actually bad. GF junk food actually has more fat, calories, sugar, etc.

    Eating a diet rich in whole foods is the best whether you have a gluten problem or not.

  10. says

    Funny you write about this. There’s a story in SELF’s October issue (I’m a little behind on my reading) about this. It details when you should and shouldn’t give up gluten. I think it is hugely worth pointing out that giving up gluten does not mean the food is lighter. Good post.

  11. says

    It does seem like such a big thing now, but I think just because they’ve more recently discovered it. I always wonder from time to time whether I have any of the common food related issues (lactose intolerant, gluten free, etc.) but I don’t think I do.

  12. says

    Food interolances and allergies are becoming more and more prevalent. As the mother of a food allergy child (tree nuts) I wish I knew the reasoning! We eat organic whole foods and I have since pregnancy. i also think its interesting that some autistic kids show drastic reduction is symptoms when gluten is cut from their diet since it affects their brain so much.

  13. Lou says

    I know someone who bangs on about being allergic to gluten ALL THE DAMN TIME. To the point of annoyance. Yet she eats things I know contains gluten. WTF?! A close friend of mine also went on a gluten-free diet a few years ago as advised by a naturopath. When I saw her not long ago, she told me she had stopped because she couldn’t be bothered anymore and didn’t feel any different.

    It is such a contentious issue. I’ve heard gluten can make people feel bloated and sick. But I think I agree with Cynthia’s comment on whole-foods. Funnily enough, this interesting article was in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald; http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/diets-based-on-a-grain-of-truth-20120127-1qlc1.html – interesting reading!

  14. says

    i think that it’s less of ‘everyone has an intolerance recently’ and more awareness and people realizing that going GF can make them feel better than they thought possible. when I started paleo, i learned that our bodies aren’t really adapt to digest gluten but gluten is in everything! removing it has made my insides and outsides pretty happy! I’m not going to be GF on everything/forever but moderation – i’ll have beer/bread/gluten when i really want it but i don’t need to eat it ALL OF THE TIME like i used to.

  15. says

    I read Wheat Belly a while ago & try to limit my wheat consumption (I usually don’t eat bread or pasta, etc). I think it’s fine if people want to avoid the wheat or gluten, but what irks me is that they make so many processed, unhealthy gluten-free products now. We sell a ton at work & those are not something people should be subbing into their diets. Just because they’re gluten-free cookies doesn’t mean they still aren’t overly processed crap. So many people just don’t get it. Eat as close to nature as you can & shop the store perimeter, not primarily the gluten-free isle. Know what I mean? Great post though girl!! :)

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