Caterers and specialty bakeries alike are serving up increasing numbers of gluten-free cakes and other goodies to meet a small, but steady and growing, demand. Many are also offering an increasingly sophisticated vegan variety, which was also featured at Clinton’s wedding.
Paula LeDuc, owner of Paula LeDuc Fine Catering, an event firm in San Francisco, told the Today Show that gluten-free requests have increased from roughly one a month last year to one a week this year.
“Three or four years ago, gluten-free wasn’t even part of the conversation,” she told Today.
Gluten-free options are becoming much more in demand from restaurants and caterers, according to this Today Show article, which used Chelsea Clinton’s gluten-free wedding cake as a prime example.
For some, the trend toward gluten-free may be driven by a desire to stay on top of the latest, hippest food developments, but this is one case where following the trend could end up being a very smart move for your health.
Why all the Fuss Over Gluten-Free?
Gluten, a protein found in grains such as wheat, rye and barley, wreaks havoc in people with celiac disease, triggering an immune reaction that damages the small intestine and prevents absorption of nutrients.
According to statistics from the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, an average of one out of every 133 otherwise healthy people in the United States suffers from celiac disease (CD), but previous studies have found that this number may be as high as 1 in 33 in at-risk populations.
Despite its rapidly increasing prevalence, the disease is still commonly misdiagnosed or missed altogether; it still takes an average of four years to reach a diagnosis, and that’s if you’re symptomatic.
This delay in proper diagnosis can dramatically increase your risk of developing other diseases such as autoimmune disorders, neurological problems, osteoporosis, and even cancer.
Most People are Better Off Avoiding Gluten -- Even Without Celiac Disease
Large numbers of people, perhaps even the majority of the population, are adversely affected by gluten on some level, and most of them do not have full-blown celiac disease, just a lesser form of gluten intolerance.
Grains and sugars are inherently pro-inflammatory and will worsen any condition that has chronic inflammation at its root -- and not just inflammation in your gut, but anywhere in your body.
Those with celiac disease know the importance of eliminating grains from their diet, as many cannot tolerate even minute amounts of gluten, but this message has still to take root in the collective mind when it comes to dealing with autoimmune diseases and other inflammatory conditions.
In fact, if you want to avoid heart disease, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes or even cancer, you will want to severely limit your grain consumption, or avoid grains entirely.
In my experience about 75-80 percent of ALL people benefit from avoiding grains, even whole sprouted grains, whether you have celiac disease, gluten intolerance or neither of those conditions.
Gluten isn’t the Only Reason to Avoid Grains
Gluten intolerance is only one problem linked to eating wheat, and may not even be the most serious one. That honor may actually go to wheat lectin.
Lectin is a defense mechanism for the wheat plant, designed to ward of its natural enemies such as fungi and insects. Unfortunately, this protein is also very resistant to breakdown by living systems, and it easily accumulates in tissues where it interferes with normal biological processes and acts as an anti-nutrient.
All seeds of the grass family (rice, wheat, spelt, rye, etc.) have high levels of lectin.
Typically, sprouting, fermenting or digestion can help to negate some of the harmful effects of such anti-nutrients (as in the case of fermenting soy, which removes many of its anti-nutrient properties). However, lectins are resistant to these types of processes.
For this reason, lectins exist even in “healthy” sprouted breads and may be in their highest concentrations in whole-wheat varieties.
One form of lectin, wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), is capable of passing through cell membranes of your intestines, gaining entry into your body where it is:
- Cyctotoxic (may induce programmed cell death)
How Can You Know for Sure if Grains are Right or Wrong for You?
If you have signs of celiac disease or gluten intolerance, a blood test can confirm the diagnosis -- if it comes back positive it is imperative that you do not eat gluten in order to avoid further damage to your health.
In addition to nausea, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain, celiac disease may manifest clinically with an array of non-gastrointestinal symptoms, such as fatigue, osteoporosis, anemia, infertility, depression, organ disorders and more, so be sure to get the blood test if you suspect gluten may be a contributing factor.
Other people who could benefit from avoiding grains right off the bat are those with health problems including:
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Type 2 diabetes
This is because grains rapidly break down to sugar in your body, which causes rises in insulin that exacerbate and even trigger health problems such as these.
There is a portion of the population that can eat grains without suffering many health consequences, though, and these are typically people whose nutritional type is a carb type and who don’t have insulin resistance.
I cannot stress enough the importance of finding out your nutritional type to help you determine whether grains should be in your diet at all, or whether you’d benefit from a higher protein, higher fat diet, or another combination, instead.
The nutritional typing test is completely free, and it can give you valuable insights into which foods YOU specifically will thrive on, whether they’re gluten-free, wheat-free, grain-free or somewhere in between. Rather than relying on the latest trends, rely on your own biochemical makeup to dictate the foods that are right for you.