Why You Should Avoid Gluten

Posted on: July 4, 2012 Category: Health & Wellness

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt. Gluten, in Latin, means ‘glue. Its adhesive properties are used to hold bread together.

Why you should avoid gluten

We have been eating gluten containing grains (breads, pastas etc.) for so long, so why is gluten sensitivity increasing right now? This is due to environmental triggers – the hybridization of wheat. Today, wheat is been bred for much higher gluten content (Super Gluten). You can read  a detailed article about this by Dr. Mark Hyman here.

Gluten intolerance is a factor not only in coeliac disease (an autoimmune disease), but also in many autoimmune, digestive, inflammatory diseases and psychiatric disorders.

Gluten’s adhesive properties also interfere with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients in our gut. This can result in weight gain, and also ultimately leads to damage in the gut lining (leaky gut syndrome). Damages in gut lining is extremely hazardous to our health, and also increases our risk of chronic diseases.

You don’t have to be diagnosed with coeliac disease to have gluten intolerance and experience health problems from eating gluten.

Symptoms of gluten intolerance

  • Anemia
  • Fatigue
  • Cancer
  • Canker sores
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Anxiety
  • Weight loss/gain
  • Infertility
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Diarrhea, IBS
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bloating/Gas
  • Irritability

Gluten-containing foods

  • Wheat (durum, semolina, spelt, kamut, einkorn, farro, wheat germ, bulgur)
  • Rye
  • Barley
  • Triticale
  • Wheat bread
  • Wheat-containing pasta
  • Processed foods

Gluten is also hidden in cereals, some sauces, salad dressings and frozen/processed foods. Be sure to read the labels carefully!

The good news is: Gluten-free food tastes amazing!

Gluten-free foods

  • Buckwheat
  • Brown rice
  • Wild rice
  • Amaranth
  • Quinoa
  • Corn (Choose organic non-GMO)
  • Millet
  • Gluten-free oats (be careful as most oats are processed in the same plants with wheat – a GF brand I like is Bob’s Red Mill)

Instead of wheat flour, try substituting it with coconut flour (my favourite!), quinoa flour, buckwheat flour, brown rice flour.

Personally, I have felt a huge positive difference after cutting gluten out, especially an increase in energy and I don’t suffer from digestive problems anymore (I used to have a very weak digestive system and bloated easily). When I tried to reintroduce gluten I had really bad digestive problems. The path was tricky, since gluten is hidden EVERYWHERE but it was definitely worthwhile!

A lot of gluten-free foods try to make up for gluten by using emulsifiers, raising agents and other synthetic substances – so be careful and avoid those! I’ve found the best way to eat baked goods is by baking them at home – so much healthier and better for you. No processed, refined sugars and you know that you put in high quality ingredients!

I love baking coconut bread, oat cookies, and make raw cheesecakes. And I still enjoy pasta all the time – quinoa pasta, buckwheat pasta and brown rice pasta taste are so yummy!

A few of my favourite gluten-free recipe sites are:

And of course, fruits, vegetables, seeds, and nuts don’t have gluten as well – so you have PLENTY to choose from. I never feel restricted on the gluten-free diet!

Of course, the best way to to know if you are sensitive to gluten is by eliminating gluten from your diet. See how you feel after a few weeks. Personally, I found improvement in less than 2 weeks, and as I followed the gluten-free lifestyle longer, my other symptoms cleared up.

Listen to your body, your body knows best! ;)

In the comments below, let me know – do you avoid gluten? Have you eliminated gluten and found positive changes in your health?

I am also always looking out for good gluten-free brands and foods, so please help me out and let me know your favourite foods and brands! 

I’d love to hear from you!

Much love,
Jia Ni

Image source: Gerard Stafleu

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  1. Natalie says:

    Great post. I’ve been experimenting with being gluten free since about February. I was always curious about it but after a serious case of IBS knocked me around this year after a long period of dormancy, I figured I give it a try. I’m resistant to spending money to get tested for celiac so occasionally eat products with gluten to see what happens. It is just so hard to eat on the go! But after eating gluten, I almost always experience serious abdominal bloating for days. I’m definitely interested in learning how to do my own baking, but it is hard gluten-free since my husband is allergic to corn and potatoes and potato and corn flour and starch are common ingredients in gluten-free products.

    • Jia Ni says:

      Wow, thank you so much for sharing your experiences, Nat! :) Yeah, I don’t think testing is necessary – afterall it may not show up on tests. The best way to find out is by cutting it out and see if your symptoms improve. I find it is quite easy to find gluten-free products in health food stores and organic stores. I think it may be easier to find in US (especially in Wholefoods) but in Australia lots of gluten-free products are actually filled with other nasty chemicals! I find it is easy to find 100% buckwheat pasta and rice pasta. But I agree that lots of gluten-free products have corn in them although I haven’t come across potato flour. But maize/corn flour is a common sighting (which I avoid unless it is organic corn because of the whole case with GMO corn!)

      I find substituting almond meal, quinoa flour, flaxseed meal, buckwheat flour, coconut flour, brown rice flour in recipes that call for wheat flour can work sometimes (although you have to find the right combinations). Check out the Elana’s Pantry. She has lots of great gluten-free recipes and you can omit anything that asks for corn/potato flour! :)

      Wishing you all the best in your journey!

      Much love, Jia Ni xo

  2. Louise says:

    I’ve been gluten free for about 12 years now, and it’s SO much easier than it was then. The access to tasty gluten free substitutes has never been better. My energy levels and lifelong excema cleared within four days of beung Gluten Free and I would never go back. Great article :)

    • Jia Ni says:

      I agree – I am so grateful that much more places cater for gluten free now!

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Louise! It’s GREAT to hear from someone who has been gluten free for so long. :)

      Jia Ni xx

  3. Jan says:

    Hi Jia Ni

    Thanks for your positive and inspiring pages and recipes. I have been on a gluten free diet for 13 years now (after ME having to ask the doctor for a blood test which came back very positive) after suffering a constantly bloated and sore tummy ( I thought I had stomach cancer), foggy brain, weight gain, acute asthma and lethargy. When the high results came in, the doctor said I had 2 choices. 1. Try a gluten free diet to see how I felt. 2. Have what he called, invasive surgery (gastroscopy), to get the gold card diagnosis. Guess which one I chose? The easy one. Number 1. Within a week of eliminating gluten completely from my diet, I felt reborn! The asthma disappeared completely and has not ever returned, my tummy returned to a normal state, I lost lots of weight because my bowels started working as they should, my thoughts became sharp as a tac and I had energy to burn. So much so, that within a year, I had started a new dream business and had a sea change of lifestyle. Then 13 years on in June this year, my husband of 33 years was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an incurable cancer of the blood plasma. His only symptoms were slight anemia and unquenchable fatigue, all the while having to maintain a heavy physical workload. No chemo is necessary at this stage because he has ‘smouldering myeloma’ which was a blessing in disguise because it gave us time to investigate other options. We immediately went to an amazing local naturapath who advised him to eliminate the following from his diet. Sugar, red meat, alcohol, gluten, dairy, coffee, tea. He eats only fruit, vegetables, eggs, fish, herbal teas and lots of macadamias, almonds, etc and has alot of vitamins and minerals recommended by her. His last blood test in early September, showed a slight decline in the protein levels in his blood, which was exactly what we were hoping for!!!! We were ecstatic! But wait for this. He is 63 years old and now has so much energy, he says he feels no more than 40 and has started running on the beach where we live as his body just ‘wants’ to as he feels so light and fresh and full of energy!! The sinus problem that he has had for ALL our married life (and driven me mad with continual nose blowing, sneezing attacks and snoring at night) has disappeared completely! After doing alot of reading on the net, I have come across evidence that multiple myeloma may be a more severe form of gluten intolerance. Even though he didn’t have any of the typical symptoms of coeliac disease, I remembered that his mother, now deceased, had her thyroid out, a very big bloated stomach and suffered from severe depression – all possible links to a untreated coeliac disease. It is a hereditary disease. So we are now on this exciting path and he is loving his new diet that is full of colourful ‘live’ food and feels that he can and will make himself well again. I am on the diet with him (even though I LOVE coffee) and the sacrifices are paying off with toning up, nails the longest and strongest they have ever been and teeth whitening up and feeling glossy on the tongue. I came across the Wellness Warrior who is also amazing and found your comments on her blog about gluten so felt compelled to write to you. I do wonder if Jessica’s Mum might be coeliac with the symptoms she described in her ‘about Mum’ section. Gluten can do extraordinary things to clog up our finely tuned bodies. I wish you all the best with your wonderful blog.