By now most of us have heard that gluten is bad and contributes to inflammation. But how exactly? Is gluten bad for everyone? After doing extensive research on gluten containing grains and their effects on the body my personal conclusion is yes, gluten should be be reduced to a very small part of the diet and for many people, cutting it out completely will improve their overall health. In addition, other grains may not be as healthy as we once thought either.
Prolamines are specific types of proteins that are found in all grains but the highest amounts are found in gluten containing grains like wheat. Prolamines are troublesome because our digestive enzymes are not able to properly breakdown these proteins into amino acids. This causes inflammation to the lining of the small intestine which prevents it’s ability to accurately monitor what passes into the blood stream. Larger undigested food particles end up in the blood stream and because the body is unfamiliar with these particles, it mistakes them for foreign invaders. Inflammatory compounds are released by the immune system leading to chronic systemic inflammation so long as the prolamine containing foods are consumed.
Grains (even whole grains) contain phytates which bind to minerals like zinc, calcium, magnesium and iron in the digestive tract blocking their absorption into the body. This is another reason why reducing or eliminating grains is often recommended for those struggling with inflammation.
Instead of grains, opt for more starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, yams, turnips, rutabagas, carrots, parsnips and winter squash. These are great sources of healthy carbohydrates that don’t contain phytates or prolamines. Low glycemic fruits like berries and apples are also excellent carbohydrate alternatives.