The Gluten-Free Guide: Reasons to rethink Gluten and what to eat instead

The Gluten-Free Guide: Reasons to rethink Gluten and what to eat instead

Gluten is a naturally occurring protein found in many commonly consumed grains, such as wheat, barley, rye and triticale. A natural binding agent, gluten is often extracted, concentrated and added to processed foods to hold them together and give them shape. Gluten is also the component that gives dough made with wheat flour a stretchy quality. [1]

But despite occurring naturally in healthy grains, gluten has earned a bad rap because of its association with celiac disease, a hereditary autoimmune disorder. People with celiac disease have an adverse reaction to gluten that’s caused by immune cells mistaking the protein for a toxin and attacking it. [2]

If left unchecked, the resulting inflammation can damage the inner lining of the small intestine, impairing the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Apart from malnutrition, celiac disease manifests a wide variety of other symptoms, such as chronic diarrhea or constipation, unintentional weight loss, fatigue, infertility, stomach pain or swelling, painful and itchy skin rash, early osteoporosis or bone fractures, among others. [3]

Gluten in foods can also trigger an allergic reaction. In people with wheat allergy, the presence of gluten and/or other proteins in wheat, such as albumin, gliadin or globulin, elicits an unwanted immune response upon consumption. This can cause mild to severe symptoms, such as swelling or itching of the mouth or throat, shortness of breath, hives, cramps, nausea, diarrhea and anaphylaxis. [4]

Another serious issue associated with gluten is non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), sometimes referred to simply as gluten intolerance. While this condition shares similar symptoms with celiac disease, it does not cause intestinal damage. According to a recent study by American and Italian researchers, this is because people with NCGS produce less inflammatory (and therefore less damaging) subclasses of antibodies than those with celiac disease. [5][6]

Nevertheless, NCGS can cause a variety of gastrointestinal symptoms, such as bloating, stomachache, gas, nausea, constipation or diarrhea. It can also cause fatigue, headaches and joint and muscle pain. Like celiac disease, researchers estimate that about 1 to 2% of the North American population suffers from NCGS.  

What you need to know about the Gluten-Free Diet 

Because of the unpleasant side effects linked to gluten consumption, many people without NCGS or celiac disease have made a conscious decision to avoid gluten-containing foods altogether. This eating plan, known as the gluten-free diet, has gained traction since 2010, when awareness about food allergies surged and experts began to openly discuss gluten-related disorders. [7]

When you go on a gluten-free diet, make sure to replace gluten-containing foods in your diet with equally nutritious alternatives, so your body will not lack in any nutrients. Avoiding gluten-free processed foods is also recommended, as these products not only cost more but are also often high in sugars and fat. What’s more, processed foods tend to have low nutritional value. [9]

If you wish to eliminate gluten from your diet, make it a habit to check product labels thoroughly and avoid grains or products that contain any form of wheat, barley, rye, triticale and even oats. Although oats are naturally gluten-free, they may be contaminated with gluten if they are processed with other gluten-containing foods. You should also avoid the following wheat varieties and derivatives: [10]

  • Durum
  • Einkorn wheat
  • Emmer
  • Farina
  • Farro
  • Graham
  • Khorasan wheat (oriental wheat)
  • Semolina
  • Spelt
  • Wheatberries

Other foods or ingredients you should avoid are malt and malt products (e.g., malt milk, malt extract, malt flavoring and malt vinegar) and anything that contains brewer’s yeast. Unless labeled as gluten-free, brewer’s yeast should be assumed to contain gluten due to the barley it is processed with. Brewer’s yeast is a byproduct of beer brewing, which commonly uses barley. Baker’s yeast, on the other hand, is naturally gluten-free. [11]

To get maximum nutrition despite going gluten-free, eat plenty of unprocessed organic produce, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Aside from being naturally free of gluten, these foods contain a wealth of essential nutrients. You can also eat fish, eggs and plain cuts of unprocessed beef and poultry without worries. Avoid meats with breading and sauces, added flavorings and other additives. [12]

For your daily dose of dietary fiber and other nutrients, replace gluten-containing whole grains with these nutritious gluten-free alternatives:

  • Amaranth
  • Brown, black or red rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Certified gluten-free oats
  • Millet
  • Non-GMO corn
  • Quinoa
  • Sorghum
  • Teff

If you’re worried you’re not getting enough nutrients from a gluten-free diet, you can also take vitamin and mineral supplements to help you meet your daily nutritional needs. Consult with a healthcare professional to optimize your eating plan and dosage of dietary supplements.

While research on the gluten-free diet is still ongoing, there is evidence that healthy, gluten-tolerant individuals who choose to give up gluten can expect certain health benefits from the diet – provided they do it right.

Dr. Christine Maren, a board-certified physician and Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner, advises eating all the right foods (i.e., opting for unprocessed gluten-free foods and reducing sugar/refined carb intake) for a well-balanced diet and combining that with a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise and stress management, to enjoy the full benefits of a gluten-free diet. [13]

Apart from helping people deal with food allergies or food sensitivities, Maren says that a gluten-free diet can also help maintain a healthy digestive system, which is key to supporting healthy immune function. [14][15] According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, the human gut microbiota plays a crucial role in preventing the colonization and overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Gut commensal bacteria, in particular, continuously monitor their surroundings for the presence of invading microorganisms and compete with them for resource availability. This mechanism, known as quorum sensing, helps suppress the invasion of pathogens and maintains gut homeostasis.

The human gut microbiota also helps support immune response by producing certain metabolites from dietary components. For example, short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which are produced by gut microbes during fermentation of dietary fiber, help stimulate the production of antimicrobial peptides and mucus by specialized intestinal epithelial cells.

At the same time, SCFAs support the repair and barrier function of the intestinal epithelium. This physical barrier, reinforced by a layer of mucus produced by intestinal epithelial cells, separates gut commensal bacteria from the underlying intestinal tissue. The intestinal epithelium’s mucus lining is among the gut’s first line of defense against pathogens as it prevents invading microbes from entering the bloodstream. To keep your gut healthy and your immune system functioning optimally, the intricate balance between these three must be maintained at all times.

However, the gut microbiota is easily influenced by many factors, including food and nutrition. In fact, certain food components, such as gluten, can disturb your gut microbial composition, thus causing an imbalance. [16] Research has also found that gluten triggers the release of zonulin, a protein regulator of intestinal permeability. [17] Zonulin can influence the tight junctions between intestinal epithelial cells, decreasing their barrier function. This results in a “leaky gut.” [18]

Having a leaky gut not only endangers health by allowing toxins and pathogens to enter the bloodstream, it also triggers a continuous immune response that could be damaging to cells and tissues in the long run. Having a leaky gut also negatively affects digestive function, causing symptoms such as painful indigestion, diarrhea, gas, bloating, low energy levels (due to reduced energy conversion) and impaired nutrient absorption. [19]

This is why avoiding gluten could be good for your gut and immune health. According to Maren, consuming foods that don’t contain gluten provides benefits that can support a healthy digestive system and help maintain an optimally functioning immune system.

Gluten avoidance also offers benefits for athletes and physically active individuals. According to a study published in the journal Dietetics, strenuous exercise has been found to cause a “series of gastrointestinal disturbances” that can impact the physical and psychological performance of athletes. [20] In fact, considerable evidence suggests that strenuous exercise and endurance sports can cause intestinal damage and increased intestinal permeability in up to 70% of athletes.

Athletes who suffer from these issues often experience upper and lower abdominal bloating, abdominal pain, diarrhea, epigastric pain and heartburn, among other symptoms. To avoid these issues, some studies suggest adhering to a gluten-free diet. A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism reported that many athletes actively choose to go gluten-free because it helps them manage exercise-induced gastrointestinal symptoms that could negatively affect their physical performance. [21]

An added benefit of following a gluten-free diet is it can support healthy weight management plans. The right way to go gluten-free is to eat plenty of fresh organic produce and replace gluten-containing foods with unprocessed gluten-free alternatives. According to a study published in the journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences, a gluten-free diet can help you achieve reasonable weight management goals when combined with a healthy diet and regular exercise. [22]

To recap, here are 5 health benefits of going gluten-free:*

  • Helps prevent food allergies or sensitivities
  • Helps maintain a healthy digestive system and intestinal microflora
  • Supports healthy immune function
  • Supports optimal athletic performance
  • Supports sensible weight management plans 

Where to get clean, lab-verified, Gluten-free options 

Avoiding gluten completely is not easy. But when done right, a gluten-free diet offers some amazing health benefits. Going gluten-free can also help you deal with food sensitivities or allergies and avoid their negative impact on your overall health and well-being.

The Health Ranger Store understands how important it is to have clean, gluten-free options, especially for people who have celiac disease or are glucose-intolerant. This is why we are proud to offer lab-verified and certified organic foods that are nutritious alternatives to gluten-containing diet staples.

For those on the lookout for gluten-free grains that last long in storage, we’re offering Health Ranger Select Organic Gluten-Free Mega Bucket. Carefully curated by the Health Ranger, Mike Adams, himself, our gluten-free mega bucket contains up to 157 servings of ultra-clean, delicious and nutritious gluten-free superfoods, such as organic quinoa, organic millet, organic black beans, organic amaranth and organic adzuki beans.

Each component of Health Ranger Select Organic Gluten-Free Mega Bucket is individually vacuum-sealed and placed in a long-term storable bucket, making it perfect for preppers looking to build a gluten-free emergency food stockpile. Everything inside our gluten-free mega bucket is non-GMO, certified organic and free of MSG, additives, preservatives or synthetic chemicals. They are also meticulously lab tested for glyphosate, heavy metals and microbiology.

For people in search of the ideal gluten-free flour, we also offer Health Ranger Select Organic Tigernut Flour. Made from the small, raisin-shaped and chickpea-sized tubers of the Cyperus esculentus plant, tigernut flour is a starchy, versatile flour that’s healthier and more nutritious than most regular all-purpose flours sold on the market.

Health Ranger Select Organic Tigernut Flour is loaded with prebiotic fiber and essential nutrients, as well as antioxidants and other phytonutrients that can support optimal health and well-being. This premium gluten-free flour is non-GMO, non-irradiated, plant-based and certified Kosher and organic. It is also thoroughly lab tested for glyphosate, heavy metals and microbiology.

For a perfectly healthy, gluten-free snack or breakfast, try our Health Ranger Select Mini-Bucket Organic Blueberry Vanilla Pancake Mix. This delicious and nutritious pancake mix is a delightful twist on a classic morning favorite that’s made with all-natural and non-gluten ingredients like organic coconut flour, organic coconut sugar, organic freeze-dried whole cultivated blueberries, organic vanilla powder, pink Himalayan salt and more.

Unlike conventional pancake mixes, Health Ranger Select Mini-Bucket Organic Blueberry Vanilla Pancake Mix contains no artificial flavors, colors, synthetic additives or preservatives. It is also non-GMO, non-China, plant-based, certified organic and meticulously lab tested for glyphosate, heavy metals and microbiology. For quick and easy breakfast pancakes, simply mix ½ cup of our pancake mix with ¼ cup of your choice of milk plus two eggs. 

Enjoy the perks of going gluten-free without sacrificing nutrition with the Health Ranger Store’s selection of clean, lab-verified gluten-free alternatives! 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to treat, cure or diagnose any diseases.