Okay, so I have a really big question about gluten that I can't seem to find an answer for. I'm not following the Paleo diet but I happened to stumble upon this site a few days ago and I've been refreshing the "questions" page every chance I get-- you guys discuss some very interesting things! So one thing I started hearing about lately is how bad gluten is, and I know some people can't have it, but other than that there's not much I know about it. I consume quite a bit of whole wheat bread (specifically pita, since I'm Arab and you can't eat a lot of Arabic foods without pita, especially hummus). I've become pretty anal about what I eat since I gained the freedom to buy what'd I like (something I didn't have at my parents house), and I'm really interested to learn about why gluten is bad for you. I looked up threads on this site, and I did some search on google, but the articles just talk about what gluten is in and of itself and how some people are sensitive to it.
I'd really love some educated answers about why it's bad, studies, links, books-- anything! Thanks so much :)
This is a complex topic but to sum it up, there are two principal concerns with gluten (and grains and legumes in general):
They are highly glycemic carbohydrate foods that will easily spike your blood sugar and make a heavy insulin response. This works pretty bad from a weight management view point and it's something you would want to limit for optimal health. This could be limited with moderate amounts of it so it's not the biggest deal with grains but is something to consider. If you get too much (as in typical SAD diet) you start getting constant blood sugar spikes = fat storing ability = obesity = metabolic syndrome = most modern disease causes from today, depending on how bad you go into this destruction spiral you can get to CVD and diabetes as the worst issues.
The real deal: Gluten and in general some other particles present in grains (lectins) seem to hurt the gut lining very badly which will lead you to a leaky gut. Once you develop it you start not being able to digest food as well as before and if things get very bad you can start leaking some proteins to the body that could lead to an immune reaction which will cause nasty effects as food sensitivities and overall body inflammation. You can start experiencing stomach issues like gas, bloating, cramps, etc. This will depend a lot on how tolerant you are with it, how much of the amylase digesting enzyme you have, etc. that's why some people like celiacs cannot stand gluten but some other can to some extent, but it seems that in the end most of us would benefit from getting rid of it.
Basically it is tied to a large number of chronic medical conditions due to a number of factors. It disrupts intestinal integrity (irritates the gut leading to leaky gut and increased systemic inflammation), It is a high glycemic index food, it can disrupt the absorption of nutrients into our bodies from other foods, and it not nutrient dense.
Basically, it is overall an inflammatory food, and there is no real reason to eat it since it is very nutrient poor. We can get calories and nutrients fro other foods that are safeer to consume.
@GrapestreetCrip88 The point isn't, 'is this better than most people in the world?' Your comment says, 'some people have too much money and therefore can waste it on hype.
We live paycheck to paycheck and could easily eat SAD again to get a little more cash loosened up so we can do things like save money and go out or drive somewhere, or something. But, we eat Paleo and gluten-free instead. Why? Because we no longer spend money on painkillers for my chronic headaches, my father-in-law's arthritic hips and back. No more money spent on my wife's allergy pills. We don't live life constantly feeling like shit anymore.
MY point, is how many other people feel this way and think its normal? We all did. .We learned its not. I wish I could share that with everyone, and 'gluten free' is the first step for many people trying to feel better.
Gluten is considered bad in a Paleo sense because it comes from grain. Grain wasn't a dietary staple until about 30,000 years ago. If you accept this line of reasoning you avoid grain-containing foods.
In a more positivist sense, some foods are better for your health than others. If you slant your diet towards fresh vegetables, fruit and meats/seafood you displace the grain foods.
Edit 11/18/13: The opioid argument against gluten can be applied to animal proteins like albumin. You'll get a bigger rush from an egg than from a piece of toast. Here's a reference on opioid peptide sources:
@GrapestreetCrip88 Everyone's different. My thing with paleo (in whatever form you choose. There are so many options) is that you don't have to do the traditional to feel awesome. We do much more PHD and I think lots of people who do that who react poorly to traditional paleo would find it less shocking to the system. Anyway, when we need flour we have rice flour and tapioca. No issue there. :) And we have baked goods 1 or 2 times a month, and we don't feel deprived.
My other issue is that lots of people's bodies can handle it when they're younger and then they hit *insert middle age here* and then it all goes to sh*t. And wouldn't it make more sense to just prevent that? I'd rather not find out at 40 that I've been doing something abusive for so long.
Gluten is psychoactive like an opiate (think heroin.) So at the heart of it, you're taking something that's going to make you fatigued. The grains that contain gluten contain lectin. This fucks with your insulin / metabolism, so you're going to be unable to use your energy correctly.. making you weak / fatigued / tired. Then, there's phytates which fuck with your ability to use / absorb nutrients, so you're going to deteriorate. It's like fat-fatigue in food form.
Now, consider the food it's in and imagine eating that with every meal, every day and the meat you eat being fed that with every meal, every day. There are consequences (easy to google) that most of us here like to avoid / correct.
You might want to listen to/read the transcript of this interview of Dr. Alesso Fasano by Chris Kresser to get a better understanding of the main problem with gliadin, the problematic protein fragment in gluten: the body treats it as a toxin, opening the tight junctions of the small intestines to inject water to flush the gliadin out. But the opening is two-way: all sorts of stuff that's never supposed to leave the small intestines before it's broken down by enzymes. That causes havoc at remote sites in the body.
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