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Science Has Begun Taking Gluten Seriously

The plant protein gluten, which comes from wheat, rye and barley, has been a topic of contention among scientists and the general public for decades. While some people claim that eliminating gluten from their diets has helped them with numerous health issues including “leaky gut” and irritable bowel syndrome, scientists have steadfastly insisted that only persons with celiac disease should mind their gluten.

And now, The Atlantic is continuing that stand by highlighting a study “proving” that gluten not only is not bad for your heart, but that people who avoid it may actually be endangering their hearts. So what should we believe? Perhaps, with a little understanding of what gluten is and how it works, we can come to a compromise.

The word "gluten" comes from the Latin word for glue, and its adhesive properties hold bread and cake together. Bread makers may also add extra gluten to create a more spongey texture. But those same "binding" properties also interfere with the breakdown and absorption of nutrients, including the nutrients from other foods in the same meal. The result can be likened to a glued-together constipating lump in your gut, which can impede proper digestion.

The undigested gluten then triggers your immune system to attack the lining of your small intestine, which can cause symptoms like diarrhea or constipation, nausea and abdominal pain — a fact that many people without celiac disease can attest to. Obviously, this is a problem with your gut, not your heart. So while the scientists sit this one out, what do you do if you’re certain that gluten makes you sick?

The good news is there are ways to bring wheat safely back into your diet. Begin by ridding your diet of all processed foods and foods contaminated with pesticides. And, when eating grains, eat the right kind of grains. In essence, you need to reset your digestive function. Once that's done, you can begin to enjoy certain types of bread (such as organic whole wheat and sourdough) in moderation without suffering any ill effects.
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