This month our focus is on gluten. Here, we answer reader questions. 

Q:  Why does gluten intolerance seem to be more common? 

A: One theory is that wheat is being genetically bred at higher and higher protein levels and our bodies simply don’t know how to digest it. Modern grains are typically grown in synthetic soil and bathed in chemicals. But we also prepare our grains  differently from when even our grandparents were growing up. Formerly, the most basic method of preparing grains was to soak, sprout, and ferment them; bread was baked using slow rise yeast. Sprouting and fermenting grains has many benefits, including improved digestibility.

Today, flour is bleached and bread is baked with quick rise yeast. The grains in most commercially available breads aren’t soaked, sprouted or fermented, and very few people make their own bread and pasta “from scratch” anymore.

The food service industry disputes that the changes in manufacturing methods has had any effect on consumer health.

Q:  Will I lose weight if I cut out gluten? 

A: If you eliminate gluten containing products such as bread, crackers, pasta, cereal and other gluten-containing foods, you may lose weight—but it depends heavily on what else you eat!  Remember that if you swap wheat for other processed, gluten free products, you will probably gain weight, not lose it.  Store-bought, gluten free products are typically higher in carbohydrates, sugar and fat and  are often lacking in fiber and nutrients. A better approach would be to swap gluten-containing foods for whole food replacements, for example zucchini noodles in place of wheat spaghetti.

QGot any advice for someone trying to ditch the gluten? 

A: If you want to eat healthy on a gluten free diet, the best approach is to keep it simple:

  • Eat whole foods.  Include a variety of leafy greens, vegetables, and fruits in your diet. Strive to have a rainbow on your plate at every meal. Avoid packaged foods.
  • Practice diligence. Get used to reading food labels when you shop. When a food lacks a gluten-free certification label, refer to the ingredients list to determine if it has gluten-containing ingredients. Look for any wheat, rye, barley or malt.
  • Prepare your own food. Take a cooking class. Look for simple recipes online. Make it a family affair and everyone involved.
  • Rethink your drink. Remember that beer, lagers, stouts and ales all contain varying amounts of gluten. Gluten-free alcohol includes cider, wine, spirits, port and liqueurs.
  • Consider joining a support group. There are local gluten-free groups all over the country.
  • Get on with life! At first, having to follow a gluten-free diet may seem like the worst thing that ever happened to you. But you will soon discover that it may be the best thing that ever happened to you. The diet is manageable. It can also prevent more serious health problems.

Please remember that your health is your own responsibility. Nothing here is to be construed as medical advice. This information is not meant to replace the guidance offered by your health practitioner.