Going gluten-free is not exactly a new trend, but it is a health trend that certainly seems to be sticking around. Littering the aisles of health food stores everywhere are products touting the label of “gluten-free”, with that number of products growing with each returning visit to your local health food stores. Even conventional food purveyors are latching onto the trend. But what exactly is gluten? Why is gluten bad? And how does a gluten free diet fit within the framework of an anti-fungal lifestyle, such as the Phase One Diet?
To start, gluten is simply a protein found in a number of varieties of grain, particularly wheat, rye and barley. Therefore, many products containing grains, such as breads, pasta, crackers, etc. naturally contain gluten. What many people do not realize is the vast scope of products at your grocery store that contain wheat; browsing the ingredients list of many foods––even foods such as sauces, salad dressing, soups and other foods one would not initially assume contained any wheat or grain––reveals wheat as an ingredient in a variety of products.
Gluten is a problem, because many people are sensitive to this protein. For many people, gluten sensitivity is so strong that they are allergic to it. People allergic to gluten are diagnosed as having celiac disease. For people with celiac disease, consuming gluten produces an array of symptoms, including fatigue, joint and bone pain, arthritis, bone loss, depression/anxiety, tingling in the hands/feet, seizures, migraines, reproductive problems, canker sores, and skin rashes. Digestive problems can be present in children who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Many sufferers go undiagnosed, but in recent years, there has been more awareness spread about the disease, resulting in a greater number of people being diagnosed.
Celiac diseases, itself, does not necessarily account for the boom in gluten-free products. While many people who decide to “go gluten-free” do not have celiac disease or necessarily even a gluten sensitivity, there is research that suggests gluten produces a mild inflammatory response in everyone, not just those with a sensitivity or with celiac disease. In the name of reducing inflammation––which is linked to a wide array of diseases––many people now opt to avoid gluten.
So what does this mean for those who are on an anti-fungal program? One the Phase One Diet, you are already avoiding wheat, rye and barley and anything containing those ingredients. This is not necessarily because of gluten, but for two other distinct reasons. Grains, including wheat, rye and barley, are all known to be contaminated with mycotoxins, according to published medical school research. These mycotoxins are nasty poisons that can cause a variety of human health problems. (It is interesting to wonder about the role these poisons may play in the inflammation associated with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.) Secondly, grains are high in carbohydrates, which quickly convert to sugar during digestion. If you are suffering from an underlying, pathogenic fungal infection, carbohydrates may be just the thing to perpetuate that infection. Part of the Phase One Diet involves giving most carbohydrates; subsequently, wheat, rye and barley are eliminated. Therefore, an anti-fungal diet is typically already a gluten free diet!
While you are avoiding grains on Phase One, this does not necessarily mean anything labeled as “gluten-free” is necessarily ok for the Phase One Diet. Careful attention must still be paid to ingredients of foods labeled as gluten-free.