Gluten-free or not to be

Gluten-free products may be as dangerous as gluten for the gluten-intolerant individual.

By Samantha McLeod

The gluten-free conundrum.

More and more people are choosing to ditch the gluten, even the hidden culprits (in licorice?) are being exposed. I have had many wild speculations about why this gluten-intolerance is a thing.

Why does it hurt and bloat like a beach ball was shoved into my tummy?

Why do I break out in hives everywhere?

Why do I feel tired?

I was inspired

The following quote is from an article I read recently in The Guardian. It was a well-done piece that tried to explain what the problem with gluten could be. And about the problem with gluten-free options too.

“Coeliac disease has an ancient lineage, its earliest description dating back to the first-century physician Aretaeus of Cappadocia, who named it after the Greek “koiliakos” (abdominal). Yet non-coeliac gluten sensitivity appears to be a modern condition.” Not just a fad: the surprising, gut-wrenching truth about gluten

The question everyone asks is, why the grains we have been eating for 14,000 years is making many of us “sick to the stomach” now?

We are not eating what our ancestors ate

Agricultural science began developing new styles of farming and strains of wheat and crops. Varieties of wheat were developed at the beginning of the twentieth century. Red Fife was the first strain; it was a wheat which could be seeded in the fall and sprout in the early spring. Red Fife ripened nearly two weeks sooner and was a harder wheat than other spring wheats. Further experiments with Red Fife created Marquis Wheat, which was resistant to rust and came to maturity within 100 days. Experiments continue today.

The unhealthy cocktail we eat can be attributed to the following:

  • The wheat we are eating has been bred to have higher levels of stronger gluten (more gluten equals bigger and softer breads). Industrial bakeries and food manufacturers love this.
  • Industrial bakeries have also been adding extra gluten to their products – “wheat protein”
  • It is part of the process for non-organic farmers to spray their wheat – to dry off the crop for processing – with the pesticide glyphosate.
  • The bread-making process of traditional methods has been replaced with machinery, and a chemistry set of additives and processing aids – enzymes synthesized in the laboratory.
  • Emulsifiers, a category of food additive may cause intestinal inflammation by disrupting the barrier between the immune system and the microbiome – the collection of microbes that inhabit our bodies.

People are eating more gluten now than ever before, with or without their knowledge. The dangerous cocktail of genetically modified wheat, pesticides, chemicals and additives could be what is making us live a less full life.

Gluten-free alternatives:

The bad news is…it is not the answer to our problems.

  • Gluten-free products contain the same questionable enzymes and additives that food scientists used in the gluten-containing equivalent.
  • Xanthan gum (you all know what I am talking about), is a glue-like substance that is also used in the oil industry to thicken drilling mud.
  • hydroxypropylmethylcellulose (HPMC) is also used in the construction industry (higher adhesion on mortar construction)
  • Tapioca starch, a nutritionally depleted, chemically modified starch from the cassava root.


Andrew Whitley, Real Bread Campaign summed it up precisily:

“We should be asking why the food system has done this to us, asking how it dares to sell us crap that’s made us like this”.

What are your speculations for the gluten-pain problem?


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Samantha McLeod

Vancouver based food and travel writer.

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