what is gluten?

What in the world is gluten? People love it or hate it but most have no idea what it is or what it does. Since I am promoting Gluten-Free January, it is only fair to explain the truth about gluten.

Simply, gluten is what makes dough stick together. It thickens, gives cohesiveness to biscuits, breads and cookies, and acts as a preservative in numerous household products. Gluten is in everything from baby food to lipstick to vitamins to soy sauce.

Wheat and other gluten-containing grains are all in a family of grasses. Plants are just like animals in that they must survive, defend themselves, and reproduce in their environment.

Let us compare a skunk to wheat grass.

A skunk has defense mechanisms that keep predators away; most notably its powerful aroma. Who would want to eat it after it released that?!

Grasses also have defense mechanisms to keep predators – fungus, animals, humans – from eating it and preventing the seeds from growing into new grass. Lectins are defense mechanisms of plants that are found in the gluten-protein.

For our purposes, gluten=lectins. When gluten is ingested, it does not break down like other proteins. It stays whole, dangerously whole.

Lectins have a unique ability to stick to all sorts of molecules in our bodies – sugars, proteins, nerve cells, muscles (heart blockages, anyone?), blood cells, pancreatic cells, etc.

They also look very similar to common molecules found in our bodies. That is how they can get from the intestines into the blood stream.

Lectins also damage intestinal microvilli, the finger-like projections that absorb nutrients, as they pass through the intestines.

If and when our microvilli are damaged, we no longer absorb all the nutrients we need and open the door, literally, to allow the contents of our intestines out into our blood stream.

(Un?)Fortunately, our body has internal defense mechanisms too – the immune system.

Our immune system’s job is to find foreign invaders and kill them. If it does its job, we don’t get sick or get well quickly.

Can you see where this is headed?

When lectins stick to molecules in our bodies like pancreatic cells, the immune system senses a foreign invader (lectins) and sets up its attack. But wait! The lectins are stuck to the pancreatic cells, so the immune system attacks not only the lectins but the pancreatic cells as well.

In other words, your body attacks itself and you come down with an autoimmune disease, Type II diabetes.

Also, when lectins look like other molecules in the body, the immune system attack it and everything that looks like it.

Most people who are sensitive to gluten do not even know it. Gluten sensitivity is associated with troubles controlling blood sugar, mood disorders (depression and/or anxiety), a general fogginess of decreased energy. Colitis, Crohn’s Disease, thyroid disorders, especially Hashimoto’s disease, Type I diabetes, muscular sclerosis, and behavior disorders (including autism) are caused or aggravated by gluten. Irritability in children is a tell-tell symptom.

Join folks across the country in Gluten-Free January this month! Simply remove gluten from your diet for 30 days and see how you feel. You don’t know until you try.

Check out the following resources for delicious recipes, tips and tricks, and overall helpful information in your journey.

www.robbwolf.com

www.everydaypaleo.com

www.marksdailyapple.com

www.elanaspantry.com

Let me know how it goes!

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