Gluten : Fad, Fiction or Fact?

We just love running after extremes, don’t we? Something is either the absolute worst, or heaven on earth. Don’t say it is ‘good in these ways’ and ‘bad in those ways’ : it’s too complex, and our eyes glaze over.

But, in the words of Chesterton : “A dead man swings, a live man stands solidly on the ground.”

Why chase the Food-Fads?

We love fads and trends for several reasons:

  • Emotional weight: following a trend that is ‘revolutionary’, it makes our lives feel a bit more significant
  • The illusion of certainty: It’s easier to handle the statement  “Butter will kill you,” than “Butter has some benefits, but you should pay attention to the potential dangers.”
  • Our brains are lazy: it takes mental energy to understand life. To save energy, we are prone to believing simple lies to complex truths.

Asking whether gluten is “good” or “bad” for you, is the wrong kind of question:  it’s like saying : “Should I add flour to a recipe?” It depends : What recipe is it? Who’s going to eat it? What do you want the consistency to be? What should it taste like? Are you going to bake it?  How much do you want to make? Somehow, we don’t apply the same logic to our complex bodies, as we do to a cake-recipe.

Let’s simplify:

When your body digests different food-types, there are a lot of things interacting with each other at the same time. Your body does not treat food the same way as your friend’s body does to theirs. Whether gluten, lactose, eggs, carbohydrates, fats, protein – all these are processed differently. Some factors that influence this:

  • your food-sensitivities
  • enzymes
  • genes
  • the inflammatory state of your gut.

When we talk specifically about food sensitivity, then, it’s a bit like a volume-button : a little sensitivity to gluten, (low volume) can make you feel bloated after a sandwich. Intolerance to gluten (full volume) can give you severe cramps and diarrhoea. The same rules apply to lactose, eggs, protein, nuts and all kinds of foods.

Now, try and add these in a complicated stew, add the inflammation from a recent infection in your gut, and voila! A perfect recipe for disaster!

So, how do we get to the bottom of this?

The best way to figure out exactly what your very unique body can tolerate, is to follow an elimination diet. These are tough to stick to, but they are the best avenue to get to the gut of the problem.

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