Gluten has become the new enemy as evidence continues to emerge linking grain-based diets with a range of chronic health conditions. Not surprisingly, the market for gluten-free foods and beverages has skyrocketed. The primary reason is that consumers are convinced that gluten-free products are generally healthier and more nutritious.


Gluten is a protein that binds starch molecules in wheat, barley and rye. Because of its binding properties, it’s added to many processed foods so that they don’t crumble apart. When gluten enters our guts, it binds to the junctions that keep our intestinal cells together, and this seriously impairs their function. Leaks in the lining of the gut ensue and allows substances like undigested food or microbes to pass through.

This condition — called intestinal permeability or leaky gut syndrome — is proposed by some researchers to involve a link with many chronic diseases, autoimmune disorders and inflammatory conditions. Celiac disease is an inflammatory autoimmune disorder caused by gluten, and many people — often without discernible symptoms — might be gluten-sensitive without knowing it.

Since wheat is a staple of the Western diet, exposure to gluten is pretty high. The decision to follow a gluten-free diet is a wise one if you wish to restore your gut to optimal health.

You’re missing the point, however, if you buy gluten-free cookies, cakes, crackers and bread. Many of these have added sugar, salt and fat. Regardless of the presence of gluten, if it’s packaged or processed, it’s not as healthy as other whole foods that you could be eating that are naturally gluten free.