Gluten is the main ingredient in almost all grain products. It’s been around since the time man first settled down and began farming the land thousands of years ago. Before that, humans collected and ate grain that was growing wildly. It’s always been a part of our diet. So why are some people intolerant to gluten? Dr. Jen’s Ultimate Protein Bars, a maker of gluten free protein bars, aims to discover why some people are gluten-free and offer tips for eating healthy.
WHAT IS GLUTEN?
Gluten is the general name for the proteins found in various wheat grains, rye, and barley. Gluten is the substance that helps food to maintain their shape (“glues” the plant together). It’s what makes bread rise, resulting in leavened bread, and flavors many products made from the substances that contain gluten.
Gluten, an all-natural ingredient in grains, is a huge component of meals consumed by humans. Yet, one in 133 Americans (about 1 percent of the population) have some form of gluten intolerance. Symptoms include indigestion, headache, nausea, skin rashes, chronic fatigue, and even depression. When the intolerance to gluten causes an autoimmune disorder that can destroy the small intestine, celiac disease is the cause. Only discovered in the 20th century, celiac disease results in people with celiac disease not able to eat anything made from gluten-containing crops.
So why the rise in intolerance to something humans have been eating for at least 10,000 years? Why are gluten intolerances rising?
A BRIEF HISTORY OF GLUTEN
The history of gluten begins where most of humanity’s known history begins: the Fertile Crescent or Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq). This is where humanity finally decided it didn’t like following herds of animals for a living and decided to settle down. Taking the wild grains they found growing all around them, humans cultivated them and soon enough a civilization was born.
Grains are the source of gluten. Whole grains are made up of three parts that can be eaten: the bran, the germ, and the endosperm — and in their natural “whole grain” state, they contain plenty of fiber, protein, minerals, and vitamins. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, whole grains reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers. Furthermore, most of us would not be here today if it weren’t for spaghetti and mac ‘n cheese we consumed in massed quantities in our childhood.
Wheat began spreading to other parts of the world, slowly becoming an integral part of the ordinary human’s life, especially peasants. However, due to the labor intensiveness of making bread, gluten consumption was not as high by ancient peoples as it is today. By Medieval Times, economies of scale had kicked in and the production of grain and grain products was rising, mainly because it’s price was substantially less than other products such as meat products that most of us would not be here if our ancestors had not subsisted on grain products (mostly bread).
The Industrial Revolution of the 19th centuries significantly sped up the process of producing grain and breads and the popularity and accessibility of bread products spread worldwide. During the Great Depression and World War II, pasta and bread were encouraged as inexpensive alternatives to rationed foods like meat and dairy in the United States. Thus, war is to blame for our country’s love affair with processed foods.
Our federal government did nothing to help our growing dependence on wheat. Wheat consumption rose in the 1960s when whole wheat products were touted as health foods, and then again in the late 70s and early 80s when fast food became prevalent. Today wheat is the most widely grown crop in the world, and in the United States most people consume it at every single meal.
In the early 1990s, the US Department of Agriculture made grains a staple food in American diets when it published the Food Pyramid for the first time, grains being the foundation of a healthy American diet. The bread industry exploded due to this recommendation. Some researchers speculate this is when the intolerance to grains began to rise, caused by our increased consumption. Today wheat is the most widely grown crop in the world, and in the United States most people consume it at every single meal.
MODERN WHEAT PRODUCTS
There’s no denying the wheat of today is not the same wheat as it was thousands of years ago. Plants and animals naturally evolve to survive, a process called natural selection. However, as Dr. Jen’s Ultimate Protein Bars explored in the last blog posts, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have exploded as well as man had put his finger in the natural selection process and decided to breed for certain traits and characteristics. With the noble effort to prevent starvation of world populations, wheat has undergone significant alterations, producing many varieties in the last few decades.
Research has yet to show how these gluten GMOs are impacting our bodies and the rise of gluten intolerances. Some physicians have come out and said now that the healthier way to eat is gluten-free, which will result in more energy and less sicknesses as well. However, there is no conclusive proof of this theory either. Eating less gluten may make you lose weight, but it had nothing to do with the gluten. Losing weight is all about caloric intake and gluten-free products still have calories.
Hence, it will probably be decades before any conclusive research is out on the rise of celiac disease and gluten intolerances in the human population. Luckily, those afflicted have a lot of alternatives to choose from that are still very healthy and very good.
Dr. Jen’s Ultimate Nutrition Bars are one such alternative for those suffering from celiac disease. Our bars are 100 percent gluten-free, depending on pea protein as our main ingredient. We do not use any GMOs as well and adhere to all-natural, mostly-organic ingredients for our protein bars. Fiber, important to digestion and regularity, weight management, blood sugar regulation, cholesterol maintenance and more, is another main ingredient in our gluten free fiber bars.
TIPS FOR EATING GLUTEN-FREE
- Focus on what you can eat versus what you cannot. Lots of food are naturally gluten free. Fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, cheese and eggs are just a few gluten-free, healthy options.
- Not all grains contain gluten. Focus on the grains you can eat such as Quinoa, teff, amaranth, polenta, buckwheat, corn, millet and tapioca.
- Read labels on all products you purchase. This can prevent painful after-effects if consumed.
- Don’t knowingly cheat. Again, this could be painful for your stomach afterwards. Instead, have go-to, gluten-free foods to satisfy your cravings handy.
- Find the best stores and restaurants that cater to your needs. We live in the 21st century where businesses know they need to cater to different needs. You can still eat out just eat out smartly.
- Look for gluten-free certification. Independent gluten-free groups are now doing their own testing and verification methods to help those with gluten intolerances.
- Meal planning is your best friend. If you want to avoid the temptation of cheating and trying the office cookies, then make your meals in advance. This is not only a health-saver, but a money-saver as well.
- Vary your diet. You still need a variety of foods to maintain your health. Don’t get stuck in the same-old because it’s easy.
Celiac disease or celiac intolerances are not a reason to stop living life--and enjoying food! Get creative with gluten-free products and after a while, you’ll wonder how you ever ate otherwise.
Dr. Jen’s Ultimate Protein Bars supports those with celiac disease and those who are intolerant to gluten. Our all-natural, gluten free protein bars are high in fiber and packed full of superfoods for an amazing, tasty pick-me-up when you need it most. Available in two amazing flavors such as Double-Chocolate Peanut Butter and Double Chocolate Almond, our gluten free protein bars are perfect for a mid-morning hike, a mid-afternoon snack after soccer, or a late-night snack for bed to help your body in the long fasting process. Buy yours online today!