About 0.3 to just less than 1 percent of the world population has a very, very rare genetic disorder resulting in a medical condition called celiac (or coeliac) disease in which they are unable to tolerate gluten.
They do not just have rashes, cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation but also intestinal mucosal changes leading to malabsorption resulting in very severe nutritional deficiencies, infertility, certain cancers, severe hair loss (alopecia) and baldness, and very serious autoimmune responses (severe allergy like symptoms although this is not really an allergy).
Once upon a time these were the only people known to have issues with gluten.
More and more people now appear to develop what is being referred to in general as “gluten sensitivity” which results in intestinal cramping, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and even rashes and hives. But it is not genetic in origin like celiac disease nor as severe — not as severe in that, while it is horribly miserable, it is generally not so life threatening except of course for cases of severe true allergy with anaphylaxis.
However, using correct medical terminology, gluten sensitivity, gluten sensitivity enteropathy, and celiac disease all mean the exactly the same thing and these many people having issues with gluten today are not actually suffers of that particular very rare genetic disorder.
Gluten sensitivity and gluten sensitivity enteropathy IS celiac disease. Thus, there are lots of arguments taking place over simply terminology and word usage.
It is feared that use (and some feel theft) of this terminology is going to somehow diminish and be a threat to how others will view the severity and seriousness of actual celiac disease suffers whose genetic related sufferings go far beyond that of simply having GI disturbances and rash.
There are many, many other reasons people can react to dietary gluten that have absolutely nothing to do with this rare genetic disorder. Yet is normal practice to refer to such reactions as sensitivities, allergies, or syndromes. But since the term ‘sensitivities’ was already taken a whole can of worms has opened up. All over the simple choice of words being used.
Other reasons people can react to gluten include a true allergy to gluten (or more commonly wheat) proteins or an intolerance and reactivity secondary to certain vitamin or mineral deficiencies, and a great number of other medical and autoimmune conditions — such as IBS, Chron’s disease, diabetes, thyroid problems, or lupus to name just a very few.
There is also more and more evidence coming to light to indicate that over use of certain pesticides, preservatives, artificial flavorings and colorings, MSG, and antibiotics (many of which have been banned in other countries but continues to be widely used in the U.S.) in our food sources are triggering this sudden increase in gluten reactivity as well as metabolic disorders.
Scientists and health organizations argue that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) are perfectly safe. Maybe they are right. Maybe not. However, it is difficult to pinpoint cause and effect when there are so very many things all happening at the same time.
In addition to GMO foods there are new pesticides also being used and new fertilizers as well as weed killers. There is increased use of preservatives and foods are far more processed than ever before. There are more people eating fast foods and prepackaged products and consuming far greater quantities of salt, sugar, and more importantly artificial ingredients. They say these artificial additives are safe in the levels provided but what happens when they are present in every single food eaten and being eaten day in and day out?
Did you know that an apple can have over 27 different pesticides on it? But does this mean we should stop eating apples or only buy organic? Some argue, yes, and others say to simply wash your produce well before eating it. Some say it is safer to wash and peel them while others argue that the peel is far too valuable a resource for nutrients and fiber that actually help protect our bodies from contaminants.
Perhaps it is the combination of all these things together creating more problems. Not only with gluten reactivity but also an increase in allergies to peanuts. Latex allergies (especially amongst health care workers who are the most often exposed) are also on the rise but it is now known that this was due to a change in the way latex products are being manufactured and produced … over processed. Many health care facilities have gone “latex free” as a result to protect their staff and patients.
Some also argue that with advances in medical technologies we are simply discovering more problems now which before went undetected or simply categorizing them differently with new names.
Some argue it is all fear mongering and that with the internet the spread of conspiracy theories and fear mongering is far reaching and more wide spread than ever before.
Currently there are tiny particles of plastic in every drop of rain, ocean, ground water, and coming out of every tap in the world. This is very old plastic that finally managed to deteriorate into microscopic particles after many, many decades. And it is the BHA kind that they now know isn’t safe for use around our foods. Yet we now drink it as it is in every drop of liquid world wide. The scientists believe it is in small enough quantities that it will not harm us. The particles are too small to be filtered out thus smaller than most germs and other harmful particles.
We currently have many health issues occurring with metabolic syndromes. Obesity and diabetes is rampant. Easy for many to blame over eating and lack of exercise. Our world does via media push for “super sized” portions, fast foods, processed foods, etc. and we are far more sedentary. However, even our so called healthy diets are killing us.
“Diets” do not work long term and once return to former eating patterns the weight comes back — even when controlling portions and getting exercise — which defies the whole idea of overeating and lack of exercise causing obesity. The majority of the world wide population today is obese thanks to fast foods, sodas, sugar, etc. but also the majority of the world is eating mostly boxes of prepackaged, over processed, artificially adulterated products. Many countries have already banned several artificial additives while the U.S. continues their use in our food sources.
Real cooking from scratch is a dead or dying art but also a necessity for basic health and life.
There are many “diets” being promoted as healthy. Most are too restrictive and what are referred to in medical, dietician, and nutritionist circles as “elimination” diets. Unless there is a medical reason to be more restrictive, however, it is not healthy.
We require even tiny amounts of certain things — that are currently being cut completely out of diets — just to be able to properly absorb nutrients, vitamins, and minerals as well as produce hormones and repair tissues, think better, have more energy, be more emotionally stable, avoid inflammation, etc.
Eating healthy is all about achieving proper balance … not elimination!
Without pesticides and weed killers it would be difficult to produce enough food to feed the world as much of it would be lost. But whenever possible we should avoid excessive consumption. It also helps to avoid over processed foods laden with preservatives, artificial colors and flavors, and almost anything else you can’t pronounce. Eat unadulterated foods to boost your body’s natural defenses against the bombardment of contaminates.
Read labels and know what is in your food. Even supposedly fresh raw meats are often injected with brine (salt water) and sugar and various shelf life extenders so read those labels!
The nicest thing you can do for your body and your waist line is to cook from scratch using fresh unadulterated produce as much and as often as possible! Balance your diet rather than trying to eliminate things for which there is no medical condition to warrant it. Moderation, portion control, and balance are the key to health.
And when possible park further away and get in a few extra steps, stand up and jog in place or flex, get in as much physical movement throughout your day as possible. Being disabled I’m very restricted in the physical activity department, but I walk and I get into the kitchen and I stir, I pound, chop, and knead as much as I possibly can and only pull out my beloved appliances when absolutely needed.
Do, however, eliminate or very greatly reduce consumption of all things “artificial” as much as possible. Artificial is NOT food! If diabetic you may have to use an artificial sweetener but whenever possible decrease the amount of real sugar to an acceptable level instead. If hypercholesteremia (high cholesterol) is an issue you may need to use margarine in place of butter but when possible simply use a smaller amount of real butter (unsalted) or choose a margarine that is plant based instead of being artificial and only one molecule away from being petroleum.
You can further reduce sugar intake by adding naturally sweet fruit puree such as unsweetened applesauce or plum. Replace salt with herbs and spices.
And believe it or not, if you gradually reduce sugar and salt intake and increase use of other replacements, you will eventually start to notice the wonderful natural flavors of foods more and more and actually find overly salted and sugared foods too over powering and distasteful. We’ve been trained by the salt and sugar industries that they are necessary for foods to taste good but it simply isn’t true!
Your body only needs 1/4 tsp of salt to function. Most fresh fruits and vegetables pull enough sodium from the soil in which they grow to meet that need naturally without the addition of any salt. The only reason to eat salt that has been added is to ensure adequate iodine intake to prevent goiters. You get more than enough if you purchase breads, cereals, and most anything pre-made these days. And you can get enough iodine by including enough of certain kinds of fish.
You know leaner meats are better than eating too many fatty meats but what Texan doesn’t like to see their chili swimming in orange grease? Part of our joy of foods is visual. A Texan associates a skim of orange grease with great tasting chili. An easy way to trick the eye (thus the taste buds) is to mix a little paprika with olive oil in the pan and heat it before adding lean meat.
And again, don’t try to totally eliminate all grease/fat from the diet. But be mindful of overall consumption and balance things. You don’t have to purchase only 97 percent lean beef and then trim away all the little bits of fat you find after you get home. Not all of the time. And then when you do be sure to add a little of the healthier fats so it doesn’t turn it out tough and chewy or devoid of flavor.
Carbohydrates are an excellent source of energy and a mood booster. But instead of refined sugar and all purpose flour try pasta made with semolina flour, or use rice flour, or almond flour. Choose nature’s own candy … fruits, berries, nuts … whenever that sweet tooth strikes before you reach for a donut. Have a fruit salad instead of cake. But don’t deny yourself the occasional pleasure of a treat.
Eat at home more and prepare homecooked meals and snacks to take with you, and more importantly let going out to eat be the exception rather than the norm. Have a cooking day and package things up in the freezer. You can even create your own TV dinners!
And for those with gluten reactivity (not those with gluten sensitivity/celiac disease nor those with a true wheat or gluten allergy) try if possible to find a baker if you can that makes whole wheat breads from ancient strains of wheat. Easier said than done — but nobody seems to have any reaction to these.
Foods like animals can be bred to have certain genetic qualities and traits. Sometimes it comes with a price. Today tomatoes may last longer on the shelf and look better but they aren’t as juicy and much of the inside is filled with hard, very difficult or impossible to chew tendrils running throughout.
Some new breeds of cats and dogs may look better or more interesting, be calmer, more family and kid friendly, smaller, better hunters, fit into a purse better, but they also may end up having more breathing and respiratory issues, joint issues, shorter life span, cancers, diabetes, kidney and bladder diseases.
When possible purchase heirloom seeds and grow your own veggies. You can do so in a bucket on the balcony or patio. And it is pretty easy to grow herbs on the kitchen window seal.
Like green onions? Store with the roots in a glass of water, replace the water twice daily, and trim off what you need for a much longer period of time than if kept in the refrigerator as they will continue grow new stems/leaves. However, without food and soil nutrients they will eventually yellow and wither, but until then you will have them around much longer — saving on money, gas, trips to the store and time as well as gaining the joy of watching something grow temporarily.
Now back to gluten!
The lack of gluten creates some issues in cooking (particularly baking and things like gravy) since it is a thickening agent.
Xanthan gum is safe when up to 15 grams per day are taken. However, it can cause some side effects such as intestinal gas (flatulence) and bloating. People who are exposed to xanthan gum powder might even experience flu-like symptoms, nose and throat irritation, and lung problems. It was originally created as a cost-effective substitute for starches and flours. Xanthan gum is created naturally by introducing bacteria during the fermentation of corn sugar.
Cornstarch makes an ideal substitute for xanthan gum.
Also, good is Arrowroot which coagulates at a lower temperature than cornstarch but more arrowroot powder is needed to produce the same effect as xanthan gum. There is also gelatin (animal bone product) and agar (seaweed product) and potato starch.
These may not be as cost effective as xanthan gum powder but they are far less likely to result in issues nor do they have limits placed for a safe quantity of use.
It is believed in some cases that some reactivity to gluten is really just a reaction to xanthan gum instead which is used in a great number of prepackaged mixes and foods.
Here is a recipe for homemade gluten free flour that can be used just like all purpose flour in any recipe:
Gluten Free Flour Mix
(use just like all-purpose flour in any recipe)
⦁ 3 cups white rice flour
⦁ 3 cups potato starch
⦁ 2 cups sorghum flour
⦁ 4 teaspoons xanthan gum or cornstarch
In a large airtight container whisk together rice flour, sorghum flour,potato starch, and xanthan gum OR cornstarch. Cover and store at room temperature for up to 3 months.