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Fitness column: Gluten bullying

Steve Wells
Opinionated Personal Trainer
Steve Wells
Staff Photo |

The marketing machine that is called “gluten-sensitivity” brings with it much controversy. Is the gluten-free trend any more than a genius sales ploy?

I don’t think that it’s all gluten’s fault. We have eaten gluten for a long time without problems. Eating some gluten never caused issues before because we didn’t spray our genetically modified food with a gamut of chemicals until relatively recent times.

Wake up and consider that it’s not the gluten, or the peanuts, or the meat, or the tofu — it’s the way we process these items. If I told people only 30 years ago that peanut butter would be banned from schools and bread will kill you, they would have committed me. Now-a-days, it is our reality.

Does anyone really think that we are developing strange medical conditions just from eating gluten? Over 2 million Americans are diagnosed with celiac disease. Over a million have Krohn’s disease. Symptoms of Krohn’s and celiac are real, and these diseases are no joke. Experts are not sure if these symptoms are a genetic issue, an allergy or just too much darn wheat, barley and rye. We can only guess at how many people are now medical diagnosis experts based on what they saw on model-doctor-daytime-TV.

Here are the questions that get me in trouble:

Why all of a sudden? How did we miss something for so long if everybody has it? How could this be with the development of new treatments and better detection? Wouldn’t the people with these symptoms get better once they eliminated gluten? Then why the gamut of medications and colonoscopies? How do they know that there are many millions more who just haven’t been diagnosed if they don’t really understand the cause? Why would I expect a restaurant to offer gluten free choices when I’m already eating totally processed junk-food to begin with? Hint: the title of the column is “Gluten bullying.”

Correlation does not prove causation, but it’s hard to ignore the linear relationship between the advent of imitation food and drugs and the outbreak of multiple diseases of late.

We bathe gluten-containing foods in what is “correlated with” all the weird reactions, chase it with antibiotics, then wonder why our guts are jacked up.

The explanations for gluten intolerance are weak. In fact, I can’t find a single one that can explain how that vast majority of humans tolerated gluten for such a very long time. Then all of a sudden, gluten is our enemy (along with peanuts). It’s just another mystery. Or is it?

Poor or unbalanced gut flora may be the best explanation I can find. If you want to know how your gut becomes out of balance, look no further than our chemical-grain-sugar diet. The barrage of chemicals and medications we’re forced to take since birth could have something to do with it. Everything we eat and drink is loaded with GMOs, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones and herbicides, additives, preservatives, colors — you get the idea.

Nope, it’s definitely the gluten.

Could it be that gluten is just another patsy? Is it just another exaggerated, over-mis-self-diagnosed issue that we read about on WebMD as we look to blame something for our health problems? Remember that not too long ago, it was saturated fat that was killing us — which was always totally false. Now it’s gluten, for a while, until the next thing that is inserted to take our attention away from the real problem.

If you create a scapegoat so people have something to blame, it’s easy to take the focus away from the truth — no matter how logical the truth may be.

If you are thinking that you may be gluten intolerant, here are a few things to consider before you buy your next celebrity diet plan and control others with your weird behavior.

Clean out your gut: Healthy gut flora is a must for all functions of the human body. Your digestive tract is your body’s gateway to the outside world. It will act up when it is not in balance. I bet that poor gut flora is more of an issue than intolerance to gluten. If your gut is jacked up, you won’t digest gluten free chocolate cake! It makes more sense to me to find out what is causing the intolerance rather than the knee-jerk reaction of pulling a food that we have eaten for a very long time, like chocolate cake!

Limit grains: Of course you should limit all grains to stay healthy! People who have to stay lean for a living have known this for a long time. You just shouldn’t buy gluten free cookies for twice the price of regular GMO, chemical cookies and expect miracles. Many gluten free foods are still really unhealthy.

Diet and exercise: Clean up your diet and exercise regime before you start pointing fingers. I know many people with major medical issues who choose to not exercise or eat vegetables. These are the same people who complain about the price of organic food but have fabulously expensive and ineffective health insurance.

Experiment with common sense: If you eat a moderate or small amount of grains that are high quality, you may notice that you are magically more tolerant. Just how much is moderate? Nobody knows. You can figure it out for yourself with a little safe experimentation. Try eating clean, whole, organic grains, sourdough or sprouted grain bread and check your reaction. Use vegetables for carb-energy instead of all cheap grains like wheat. Sweet potatoes, yams, white potatoes, rice, quinoa are all great sources of carbohydrates that your body needs.

The bottom line: Don’t get weird about gluten until you actually fix the cause of the problem — often it’s poor gut flora. Find out what is causing your gut to be out of whack, and I bet several problems mysteriously go away. You can send me your co-pay if it makes you feel better.

Steve Wells is a personal trainer and co-owner of Midland Fitness. His column appears on Tuesdays.


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