The tip “Eat gluten-free” is included in my first book “Your best training” .
This is a practical tip that is easy to implement and has immediate positive effects for many people. However, the theory and the background to this are a bit more complex.
Gluten (from Latin Glūten = "glue") is an adhesive protein found in the seeds of many types of grain. When grain flour is mixed with water, the gluten from the flour forms a rubbery and elastic mass - the dough. Due to this property, gluten is of crucial importance for the baking properties of the flour. Classic rolls and loaves of bread can only be baked with flour containing gluten. Without the gluten, the dough would not be able to stabilize its curved shape and you could only make flatbread out of it. The gluten content in flour today is many times higher in industrial bread baking than it was 50 years ago, due to grain breeding methods that increase yield and simplify baking. So a morsel of bread 50 years ago had as much less gluten as a morsel of bread today. But not only bread and rolls contain gluten.
Foods containing gluten
Any type of pasta, pizza, baked goods such as cakes, muffins, donuts, cookies, pretzels that are not specifically labeled as gluten-free contain gluten. Breakfast cereals such as muesli or similar products often contain cereals containing gluten. Not to forget beer , which is made from barley or wheat, at least according to the German Purity Law. Gluten is also commonly found in certain dairy products, processed meats, peanut butter, marinades and sauces, energy/protein bars, cheese, fried foods, vegan meat substitutes, some ice creams, beverages like instant coffee or root beer, and more.
Most of it has no permanent place in an optimal diet anyway. But even as a free meal once a week, you should only eat what you can tolerate without problems. At first glance, that sounds like you're not allowed to eat anything anymore. However, there are a lot of better and also tastier alternatives. And not everything needs to be avoided, as will be explained later in the article. Furthermore, it depends on your individual carbohydrate tolerance how often you should consume carbohydrates for optimal body composition and a high energy level. This can be easily determined with a YPSI skinfold measurement & analysis by a certified YPSI trainer in your area.
What problems does gluten cause and why does it cause them?
Gluten is a mixture of two types of reserve proteins (storage proteins in seeds, roots and tubers) from two different groups, the prolamins and the glutelins, which every grain contains. Prolamines are soluble in alcohol whereas glutelins are soluble in the alkaline range. However, gluten is not just gluten. Below is the composition of gluten in different types of grain:
Wheat contains gliadin (group of prolamins) and glutenin (group of glutelins),
Rye contains secalin and secalinin
Barley contains hordein and hordenine
Oats contain avenalin and avenin
The prolamins are mainly responsible for the symptoms of celiac disease, a gluten intolerance that results in chronic inflammation of the lining of the small intestine. As a result, nutrients are poorly absorbed and remain largely undigested in the intestine. However, it is now assumed that gluteline can also cause problems and should therefore be avoided.
However, only one in nine people with gluten intolerance actually has celiac disease and whether grains can be tolerated also has to do with the preparation method, even with celiac disease. For example, 8 out of 10 people with celiac disease tolerate bread baked from sourdough without acute noticeable symptoms. This is because the lectins (plant's own defense proteins/anti-eating toxins) are changed by fermentation, soaking and long dough processing. Since the gluten component gliadin in wheat is a lectin, it can increase the permeability of the intestinal barrier. The intestine would become leaky, something that is referred to as leaky gut syndrome. Toxins, bacteria, undigested nutrients and metabolic products get directly into the organism via the damaged intestinal mucosa and can cause a wide variety of complaints. Many texts only refer to the wheat prolamin gliadin as the culprit, but at the same time there are warnings about rye and barley.
Gluten is not just gluten
Oats also contain gluten. However, not the form of gluten that causes problems for most people. For example, the prolamin fraction of oats differs in amino acid sequence from those of other grains and does not appear to be equally harmful. However, oats are not yet recommended for gluten-free nutrition in German-speaking countries, since contamination from cereals containing gluten – so-called cross-contamination – cannot be ruled out. Unless you buy oat flakes that are specifically gluten-free in a health food store. For many times the price of regular oatmeal. Scientists who are serious about it might say that oats technically contain gluten. In practice, however, it is not. The German Celiac Society considers it to be a possible part of a gluten-free diet if carefully introduced into the diet. A baker would hardly count it among the group of gluten-containing grains from an artisanal point of view, since oats do not have the appropriate baking properties. However, oat flakes (and also beans, peas and lentils) should always be soaked before consumption to render the lectins they contain harmless. This happens, for example, with porridge or oatmeal .
How sensitive are you to gluten?
Ultimately, it is not so important why someone does not tolerate gluten, but which foods they can eat and which they should avoid.
If you don't already know if you can tolerate gluten, here's a simple test to check your sensitivity to gluten: Don't eat anything containing gluten for a week. Then eat only foods containing gluten for a maximum of one day – feel the difference. If stomach cramps, reddening of the skin or impurities, flatulence, diarrhea, brain fog, tiredness, etc. occur after consumption or the next day - in short: if you feel worse than before consumption of the corresponding products, stop the test if necessary and eliminate them products from your diet.
There are plenty of gluten-free alternative carbohydrate sources such as quinoa, amaranth, rice or oatmeal, and even gluten-free flours such as buckwheat flour (it's gluten-free despite the word "wheat") for baking.
You can also do the same test with sourdough or spelled products. It is the simplest, cheapest and most reliable indicator to determine an acute or permanent intolerance.
Conclusion: Gluten is not just gluten. Wheat in its current form is the biggest problem for many people. Lectins can be rendered less effective by special treatment. Your carbohydrate intake should be limited to sources that you can tolerate. The amount should be based on your activity level, current body fat and muscle mass, and genetic carbohydrate tolerance. The YPSI skinfold measurement & analysis provides the best information about the last three points.
To learn more about gluten, book a seat at the YPSI Live Webinar on Gluten & Body Comp on March 6, 2021
Good luck with determining your gluten sensitivity!
Image: Breakfast cereals containing gluten.