Cereal. Chicken soup. Wheat bread. These foods may seem like perfectly acceptable parts of a balanced and healthy diet, but they all contain a single ingredient toxic to the body and its natural processes: Gluten.
Many health experts today agree that gluten can not only hinder weight loss efforts, it can actually cause harm to the body. A protein and binding agent, gluten absorbs essential minerals and weakens the immune system by sparking the production of extra antibodies. The resulting antibody attacks can also affect heart tissue, leading to heart disease and other issues. The overall deterioration of systems from the presence of gluten has also been linked to a host of other issues, including promotion of cancerous cell growth and higher risk of schizophrenia.
Gluten’s effects also take root more immediately in the form of gut inflammation and digestive issues. The word even sounds like “glue” because of its tendency to build up and stick to surfaces – such as the walls of the intestine and colon. Ever drunkenly torn into a giant sandwich or a huge bowl of pasta? Chances are, in the morning you’ll wake up with constipation issues and significant stomach or bowel pain. Gluten decreases function in the gut and is harder to flush out than other substances.
And that’s not even half the equation when it comes to gluten and gut issues. Gluten also contains lectins – tiny structures masquerading as simple sugars, which often cause damage to the digestive tissues and lead to a host of symptoms known as “leaky gut.” The lectins cause damage to the tract walls by disrupting cell processes. They also draw antibody attacks which lead to larger damaged areas, or holes, in the gut. The resulting influx of pathogens into the rest of the body can lead to a host of health problems; the symptoms, such as bowel issues, weakness, headaches, chronic stomach pain, etc., are among the telltale signs of either celiac disease or a diet heavy with toxic gluten.
But what about that delicious late-night sandwich? How are we supposed to give up the starchy comfort foods that fill us up after a long day or a tough workout?
Even a gluten-free diet can offer the powerful benefits and satisfying robustness of the wheaty foods we’re used to. “Good” starches can be found in abundance: sweet potatoes, yams, and squash add substance to a meal without posing the dangers to your body that gluten does. Eliminating or significantly decreasing the presence of gluten in one’s diet will bring with it a renewed health of the bodily systems and possibly even a decrease in daily caloric intake. As a bonus, without those binding agents, the body will have more energy and be able to bounce back faster from illness.
A caveat: those attempting to take down their gluten levels should keep a close eye on their vitamins and minerals. Many foods containing gluten naturally contain, or are artiifically enriched with, a host of nutrients that the body needs. Supplementing a less gluten-y diet with a daily multivitamin and more protein, fruits and vegetables ensure balance.
Knowing what we know about gluten and its effects, particularly on the digestive system, a gluten-free diet is worth it to restore the body and its capabilities. When it comes to your health – go with your gut.
Shawn is one of the most popular personal trainers in Los Angeles with a client list that includes various celebrities and athletes. He is the founder of Perfect Body, Inc., has been a fitness spokesperson for Time Warner manages three health and fitness web sites, was featured four times on KCAL 9 news “9 on the town”, was featured on CBS radio 97.1 numerous times, has appeared on a variety of cable shows, and runs a successful personal training practice.