What is gluten and what happens if you give it up. Personal experience

I am wary of categorical dietary restrictions, but I have not eaten flour for a year and a half. There are no breads, pastries, cookies or semolina for breakfast in my diet. How did it happen, and most importantly – why?

It all started with the book Food and the Brain, in which David Perlmutter, an American neurologist and nutritionist, describes how wheat products affect human well-being and health.

Gluten sensitivity

David Perlmutter believes that almost everyone has a sensitivity to gluten, a protein found in wheat and some other grains.

Translated from Latin, gluten means “glue”. It is a complex protein that sticks together like a gummy grain of flour in baked goods, including crackers, baked goods, and pizza cakes. It is thanks to him that the dough rises, and the finished baked goods turn out to be so airy and soft.

Like any protein, gluten can cause allergic reactions. An extreme degree of allergy is celiac disease. It is a serious condition in which a reaction to gluten causes damage to the small intestine. Many experts believe that one in every 100 people worldwide suffers from celiac disease. Perlmutter writes about one person in thirty, as many simply do not get tested.

Even if you do not have pronounced signs of allergies, this does not mean that gluten does not affect your body in any way. Perlmutter writes that the “stickiness” of gluten interferes with nutrient absorption. Poorly digested food turns into a paste that triggers the immune system to kick in. Inflammation occurs, which can damage the lining of the small intestine. And in a chronic form – to the emergence of various autoimmune and neurological diseases.

Useless modern flour

Scientists’ concerns about gluten are clearly in conflict with our views on healthy eating. A traditional breakfast is a plate of porridge (often semolina) and a roll with butter. Since when did bread stop being the mainstay of the diet and become a dangerous food?

Man learned to grow and grind wheat about 10 thousand years ago. But the pastries we eat today are not at all like the bread of our ancestors.

In Healthy Gut, Justin and Erica Sonnenburg describe how flour production has changed over the past decades.

The kernel of a wheat grain consists of endosperm, bran and germ. In the endosperm, in the form of simple starch, everything is contained for the nutrition of growing wheat. The bran covers the outside of the core with a hard sheath of the fiber. The embryo, the fat-filled reproductive organ, also contains fiber and shoots for the new plant.

Thousands of years ago, people ground wheat kernels with stone millstones. Cereals processed in this way have nothing to do with flour produced in modern factories.

During the industrial revolution, the use of steam mills significantly increased the production of flour. However, it was difficult for manufacturers to maintain its freshness over the months that it took to deliver to the consumer. Suppliers have learned that by removing the oily germ (the part that spoils) from wheat prior to grinding, they can make the shelf life virtually unlimited. However, in this way, a large amount of dietary fiber was lost, not to mention the rest of the beneficial micronutrients contained in the wheat germ. Millers also noticed that by removing the bran as well, they could offer consumers a white, light, fluffy flour made entirely of endosperm, which many found attractive, tasty and easier to use.

The dough made from modern flour rises well, the pastries are soft and airy. But there is no fiber or nutrients in it. A large amount of starchy foods in the diet is a serious challenge to the body.

Sugar level

The third argument against starchy foods is the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

The fact is that modern flour products have a fairly high glycemic index – a quantitative indicator that reflects the rate of increase in blood sugar levels after eating a certain type of food in comparison with the same indicator for glucose. The higher the value, the faster the product raises sugar. The glycemic index of pure glucose is 100, and, for example, the glycemic index of a loaf is from 100 to 136.

Why is high blood sugar dangerous? To move sugar molecules into our cells, the pancreas produces insulin. The higher the sugar level, the more insulin must be pumped from the pancreas. But if the sugar level is consistently high, the cells adapt and their insulin sensitivity decreases. The pancreas does the same thing as a person who is not heard: speaks louder, that is, increases the production of insulin.

Increased insulin levels make cells even less responsive to insulin signals, and to maintain the desired blood sugar balance, the pancreas works overtime to further increase insulin production.

This is a vicious circle that can lead to type 2 diabetes. The system actually breaks down, and external support – diabetes medications – is required to maintain blood sugar balance.

A year and a half without buns

The arguments against baking sounded pretty reasonable to me – it looks like buns and biscuits really aren’t healthy. It’s a pity 🙁

I have not eaten gluten-free foods for over a year and a half and I am definitely feeling better. Perhaps this is due to the fact that we had to pay more attention to nutrition in general – if earlier tea with gingerbread could replace lunch, now we have to come up with something healthier.

It is important to monitor the amount of carbohydrates in the diet: vegetables, fruits, cereals. On my menu – buckwheat, oatmeal for long cooking, unpolished wild rice. Quinoa is very useful, but, unfortunately, the cost of this cereal is extremely high.

Large hypermarkets usually have a health food section where gluten-free products can be found. True, a loaf of gluten-free bread can cost 200 rubles, a small pack of cookies – about the same. I decided that I wanted to change my eating habits, and not replace the gingerbread made from wheat flour with gingerbread made from corn, so I rarely go to this department.

When choosing flour products without gluten (the same bread, pasta), you should carefully read the composition – sometimes you can find pasta, in which starch is in the first place.

For the rest, I adhere to the general rules of healthy eating, which my colleague Renat Shagabutdinov shared at the webinar “100% Charged” (you can watch the free recording here):

– eat everything;

– eat a little;

– mostly natural.

In general, in matters of nutrition, you should focus on your lifestyle and trust your well-being – is there enough energy, how mood changes, sleep, the ability to exercise and concentrate at work.

Post cover: unsplash.

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