Chances are you’ve heard of the gluten-free (GF) diet by now. Whether you yourself have a gluten sensitivity, or you have a friend or family member who has celiac disease, the gluten-free trend seems to be growing rapidly. So what is gluten-free, why are people adopting this lifestyle, and when did it start? These questions and more will be answered below if you just keep reading…
What is Gluten-Free?
People who eat a gluten-free diet aren’t able to eat most baked goods. Gluten has found its way into just about any packaged good these days, and if you’re just starting a gluten-free diet it can be pretty overwhelming. The stuff really is everywhere. Breads, muffins, cakes, pasta, sauces, cereal, meat, processed foods… It’s pretty hard to get away from if you’re used to the Standard American Diet (SAD). Fortunately, there are a LOT of companies now making gluten-free products and they can be found at most grocery stores. The gluten-free trend has taken hold of supermarkets everywhere, and you can now buy just about anything that would typically have wheat/gluten in a gluten-free version; cake and muffin mixes, breads, granola bars, pasta, all kinds of things.
Now, while these things are super handy and great for those who are only trying to get away from gluten, you do have to be careful, because they may have other ingredients that aren’t good for your body. You may not get a visible reaction right away, but eating poor foods will wear away at your body over time. I think one of the best rules of thumb is to stick as close to nature as you can. Get back to the basics, as close to fresh, farm-grown produce as you can. Packaged foods typically have a lot of preservatives and additives you really don’t want. Choosing fresh fruits and vegetables is the best option, but I know a lot of people aren’t ready for that yet – they may not have the time or the money or the diligence to eat a super healthy diet. Just remember, every step counts.
Many people adopt a gluten-free diet by default because they can’t digest gluten properly, such as those with celiac disease. There are varying degrees of gluten-sensitivity, but the main point being that a lot of people just feel better when they don’t eat wheat. Others have heard about how wheat gives you belly fat and have perhaps read the book Wheat Belly.
When and Why?
When did this type of diet become prevalent and why is it suddenly such a big issue?
While I can’t say when the gluten-free movement ‘started,’ per say, I think a lot of momentum got picked up with the publishing of the book Wheat Belly in 2011. This sparked a fad for many who actually don’t have a wheat sensitivity or really need to cut it out of their diet, but were simply looking to lose weight.
It seems like just about everyone knows someone with a gluten sensitivity nowadays, but it wasn’t always like that. What changed?
One reason wheat may be creating increased sensitivity now is the genetic modification that has been done to the plant itself. Nowadays, more hardy wheat varieties are used for an increased crop, which may be harder to digest. There are also a lot of pesticides used, which a lot of people are sensitive to. And even if you don’t notice a reaction right away, toxins may be building up in your body and slowly causing damage.
Getting Over the Hump
As with every mountain, there’s always a hump you have to surpass before getting to go down the other side, and if you persist, it does get easier. You get stronger and you reach a point that just isn’t that bad anymore. As with any change, there’s no promise that it’ll be smooth sailing even after you’ve passed the peak, but It’ll definitely get easier the longer you persevere.
Hearing from yourself
I’ve dabbled in a lot of different ways of eating at different times, including a gluten-free diet, so I know that if you’ve always eaten a certain way, the hill can seem totally insurmountable. But you can get to a place where it doesn’t seem like such a big deal; you can stand at the mountaintop, look down, and think, ‘maybe it was only a hill after all’. That doesn’t mean you’ll be perfectly good to go forever after, chances are there will be times where you’ll miss the old ways of eating; maybe you’re out with friends and wish you were eating what they were or you’re having a bad day, but keep in mind that if you’re eating a diet that your body needs, you’re going to feel better on it. Think about how much better you’ve felt eating healthier foods that your body can digest well and work with and always encourage yourself with the positive. One day you might find that you don’t even WANT the old foods anymore, because you can feel such a vast improvement.
Another thing you might find helpful is to keep a journal and write down your thoughts and feelings as you try a different way of eating. Keep track of the foods you’re consuming and how they change the way your body feels and your outlook on life. You can get a better perspective and start to understand yourself more deeply so when those cravings come, you know how to take care of them.
Hearing from others
I’ve come a ways in my personal health journey and I’ve learned a lot – and I know there’s still so much more to lean. But if there’s one thing I’ve found out along the way, it’s that hearing about other people’s experiences and journeys is very inspiring, whether it be YouTube videos, articles, or a personal friend or mentor. Having those people in your life really gives you a boost up the mountain.
There are increasingly more and more gluten-free products on the market. I’ve touched on some of these in the What is Gluten-Free? section, but wanted to go a bit more in-depth here. Brands such as Glutino and Gluten-Free Pantry are committed to supplying gluten-free products, and other companies such as Bob’s Red Mill often have a line of gluten-free products. Once the initial shock is gone and you can get out of the ‘I can’t eat anything anymore!’ mindset, there really are endless possibilities. We may not realize it at fist, but there are a ton of things that are NATURALLY gluten-free. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, rice, dairy, and many other foods don’t have gluten in them by default, and other foods like pastas, soups, and salads can be easily adjusted so they don’t contain gluten. Remember the meals you used to eat that already didn’t have wheat in them, or a meal that’s really easy to leave the wheat product(s) out of. Plus, there are so many sites and books out there full of GF recipes. Glutinista.com has a list of companies that make GF products.
Still wondering about something? Or do you have some insight to add to the conversation? Comment with your questions and thoughts – I would love your feedback and participation to make this blog into a community connection!