Make Peace with Gluten

Sunday rigatoni. Friday pizza. Any day croissants. What do these all have in common aside from being regulars in my diet for decades? The ‘evil’ G word - gluten. And I am here to tell you with another G – this one for *gasp* - that they just are not that bad for you, and that gluten is not necessarily, either.

Bread, and through it, wheat, have been staples in the human diet for thousands of years, from opulent royal tables to dingy jail cells. I have yet to read of a soldier, pleb, or parliament member in any of the Roman era complain of gluten allergies, or a Pilgrim pass on the bread at Thanksgiving, a Medici Florentine skip the pasta. Yet today it seems like everybody and their mother, and those mothers’ children by mamma-cub relationship default, are all anti-gluten zealots. They proudly declare themselves gluten free, ‘off’ pasta, bread, and its often delicious and nutritious byproducts, and of course, often without a thought, “feel SO much better.”

What perplexes me is not so much the gluten-free aficionados automatically defaulting to an almost robotically decided feeling of betterment, rather than one tacitly felt in their body, nor the soy sauce often used on their food (extremely high gluten content), or the seitan steamed for their on their salad (pure gluten, made in a factory) or the craft wheat beer they sip (fermented gluten), but that a central point to our homo sapien diet is now suddenly, and almost automatically always, the health devil. Which leads me finally to the main point…..

Wheat as wheat is not the problem. We have been eating it for ever… and ever … and ever. The problem is separate, and twofold.

There are natural forms of gluten, and processed forms of gluten. Fresh forms of food, and packaged forms of food. Natural gluten is what our ancestors ate, in fresh food. Processed gluten is what we have been eating, in processed foods.

Various kinds of processed gluten have been used as additives in a gamut of packaged foods for many years. They have been quietly slipped into these foods to help maintain texture, consistency, taste, and shelf life… and maybe even to cut production costs if someone were to ever admit to it. This has led to an almost automatic overconsumption of gluten over the years, without many of us even realizing it in some cases. Add to this the ‘pro wheat every thing’ trend of a decade or so ago – wheat pasta, tortillas, cookies, wraps, etc… and, well, over intake is almost obvious. Many of us have been obliviously over consuming gluten since we were young. In this light it is not at all surprising that allergies appear…. The gluten was not supposed to be in all that stuff anyways! Our bodies cannot handle too much of anything, let alone a foreign substance to its system.

As I noted earlier, I love bread, pasta and associated products, and eat them daily. But my system simply cannot handle processed gluten. A drop of soy sauce, a crumb of seitan, a bite of real tabouli, and I am, quite frankly, done. Ill in more ways than one. Does that mean I am allergic to gluten, should urgently eliminate it from my diet and thus also “feel SO much better?” Not at all. What it does mean is that I have to pay attention to where and how I am eating it, and I encourage you to do the same.

Before you automatically swear off a food group or substance, do some personal exploration to try and decipher what exactly the problem is. I experimented for many months before I realized gluten was not a problem – processed gluten was. So now I simply avoid soy sauce in asian food, eat nothing in a package with gluten in it, avoid lunches at elaborate vegan restaurants, and relish in my slices of pizza.

You see, gluten is not necessarily the issue. That is an automatic default the gluten free industry wants you to believe (and you better believe it is an mega, growing industry). How your body specifically reacts to certain things, is, though, something you do need to tend to. So make peace with gluten, and go explore the real mechanics of you. You may be pleasantly surprised, actively relieved, or actually finally discover that you do, in fact, have an allergy. Whatever the outcome, your tangible body will thank you intellectually figuring it out, and making peace with the inner and outer you.

by Lauren Imparato / I.AM.YOU / www.iamyoustudios.com

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