In about the dangers of gluten. It’s been

In recent years, we’ve heard a lot about the dangers of
gluten.  It’s been suggested that gluten
may be responsible for a myriad of diseases: 
neurological, digestive, mental and more.  The consumption of gluten is also said to
exacerbate any latent or chronic conditions we may already have.  It seems it was only a handful of years ago
that whole grains were extolled as the backbone of a healthy diet.  Indeed, grains comprise the base of the FDA’s
Food Pyramid.  So what’s the truth?  Are grains (which contain gluten) good for us
or not?

 

As one might expect, the answer is complicated.  For people with celiac disease, gluten can be
deadly and should be avoided.  Celiac is
more than a food allergy.  It’s a
degenerative disease that profoundly damages the lining of the intestines,
rendering them unable to absorb nutrients from food.  With celiac, the intestines may also become
permeable, leading to a host of other issues as poisons from the digestive
tract leach into the system.  Even a
minuscule amount of gluten can be devastating for someone with celiac disease.

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Absent the diagnosis of celiac, gluten can also cause or
worsen other health problems.  People
without celiac can have sensitivity to gluten. 
As with all food sensitivities, a minor (non-lethal) allergic reaction
occurs.  Results of exposure may include
nausea and vomiting, an itchy mouth or throat, fatigue, mental confusion and
rash.  While these effects may be
transient, what’s going on behind the scenes may be more concerning.  All allergic reactions lead to inflammation,
which leads to immune response. For someone who is otherwise healthy, a
triggered immune response won’t likely pose a problem.  It may, however, lead to a worsening of
chronic conditions such as those mentioned earlier.

 

Gluten, like dairy, is at least slightly allergenic to
everyone.  Even if we’re not noticeably
affected, an allergen still stresses the system, but we’ve developed a
tolerance for it through regular consumption. 
If the system is ever taxed in other ways, such as a viral infection,
this tolerance can change and an allergy or sensitivity may develop.  The potential nutritional benefits of whole
grain consumption may outweigh these risks for people who can tolerate it.

 

We’ve been eating wheat and barley for centuries.  Why is it such a problem all of a
sudden?  The grains we eat today bear
little resemblance, genetically, to those growing naturally across our plains
100 years ago.  Obviously, the advent of
genetic modification has changed our food supply.  Pesticides and synthetic fertilizer have also
genetically altered the grains as they mutate to withstand the chemical
barrage.  Even in organic farming,
however, most of our soils are depleted of vital nutrients because of
unsustainable planting practices in the past. 
Our grains are different now, but they aren’t the only problem.  We are generally sicker now already because
of environmental toxins in our homes and communities.  While we are, for the most part, functional, a
high toxic load keeps us close to the edge of illness.  Thus, we are susceptible to triggers such as
food sensitivities.

 

Reducing or removing gluten from our diets has the potential
to radically improve our health.  As with
any dietary change, consultation with a doctor or nutritionist is a good idea
since inadvertent deficits can otherwise result.  Going gluten-free doesn’t mean resorting to
processed foods.  Many grains, such as
rice, quinoa and amaranth, can be part of a delicious, whole food, gluten-free
diet.