Ayurveda Day 52: Nutrition pt. 3 – Gluten Free?

It seems these days gluten free diets are all the rage. There are many who are touting the benefits of eliminating gluten from our diet, claiming it is difficult for the body to digest.

Let’s first talk about gluten in general. Gluten is a protein found in many grains, but not all. Most commonly here in the west, gluten is found in wheat products. So what’s inherently wrong with that?

There are some people who genuinely have an inability to digest gluten. These people have celiac disease. However, the rest of us find over time we may have developed an intolerance to gluten. Thus, many people go on a gluten free diet – and they probably feel great too. But trying to eliminate gluten can be extremely difficult.

Think about a typical day:

Breakfast: Cereal, bagel, croissant, toast, etc. – all have gluten.
Lunch: Sandwhich, burger, etc. – gluten.
Dinner: Pasta of some kind – gluten.

We are over saturated with the stuff. It’s already difficult for the body to breakdown, so our body has to work extra hard to digest it. Couple that with the fact that we don’t eat mindfully and further contribute to poor digestion with how we eat, and our body winds up depleting itself in order to convert this food into the tissues of our body.

Furthermore, these tissues are not made up of high quality, nutritious foods. This brings me to this perspective:

What we call being gluten free in reality is merely being processed food free.

When we process foods, it will be with one of two ultimate goals in mind:

– to increase the nutritional value
– to increase the shelf life

Both are mutually exclusive. All those gluten rich foods we have are modified in order to preserve their shelf life. Their nutritional value tanks. Then we expect our body to make tissues out of that poor quality food. Remember, we quite literally are what we eat. When we eat these types of foods, our body sends Pitta to help metabolize and digest the food, then in order to put out the fire of pitta has to send Kapha. We wind up depleting ourselves.

In order to really benefit from a gluten free diet, what you have to realize is that you are not going gluten free – you are changing your diet to being more organic, non-gmo, non-processed, and more nutritious.

Of course you’ll feel better!

But we start seeing GF labels on everything nowadays to draw people in. Maybe there is a hot dog mustard out there that is gluten free, but then again, so is fresh fruits and vegetables. We think merely by picking gluten free foods we are being healthy, but this is where we can be taken advantage of by companies.

It is difficult to eat healthy in today’s society. Everything seems stacked against us. But even (evil) companies like Nestle are switching to sugar from high-fructose corn syrup and all natural dyes because consumers are voting with their dollar.

Unless you are celiac, there is no real reason why you can’t have gluten. There is a difference between eating a fresh, organic, non-gmo, non-processed item with gluten in it and a Tim Horton’s Donut.

But as we spend years of our lives eating three meals a day layered with difficult to digest foods, we wind up building an intolerance to them. In order to truly benefit from a gluten free diet, you have to commit to at least 6 months without the stuff. Then, slowly, try bringing back in those healthier options that may have gluten. With proper portion sizes and knowing your doshas, it shouldn’t be an issue any longer.

In the meantime, if you are struggling with giving up gluten, know that there are so many other options for grains. Wheat is not the end all be all of all grains!

Vata can have:
Rice, oats, quinoa, amaranth in high quantities (1/2 cup)
Pitta can have:
Rice, oats, quinoa, barley, amaranth in high quantities (1/2 cup)
Kapha can have:
Corn, buckwheat, barley, quinoa, amaranth in low quantities (1/4 cup)

In fact, quinoa, amaranth, and basmati rice are all considered tridoshic, meaning good for all three!

So you have lots of options. You may be giving up modified wheat, but it’s not like you’re giving up eating!

So in the end, going gluten free can be an amazing choice. But understand that going non-processed, non-gmo, organic, and fresh – that’s the really amazing choice.

With gratitude,

S

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