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We've made gluten-containing grains more “gluten-y.”

Although celiac disease is relatively rare, gluten problems are much more common, and most people are walking around completely unaware that they are suffering from them. Some 30 to 40 percent of the population, including myself, have some type of gluten issue that also creates symptoms, from joint pain, to brain fog, to gastrointestinal distress. Typically in America, we've made gluten-containing grains more “gluten-y” because it makes them fluffier and softer. If you go to Italy and eat the pasta or pizza, it's entirely different because they haven't overly glutenized their grains. So, if you've been wondering why bread-loving Italians don't seem to have the same weight problems that we do, that is definitely one of the factors.

“I can't imagine giving up grains,” George said finally. He was willing to give up cake. He was willing to give up cereal. But he couldn't stand the thought of giving up bread.

“I understand,” I told him. “If I knew I was having my last meal tonight, I'd ask for a loaf of crusty sourdough bread — and I would savor every crumb!

“The problem is, tonight isn't my last meal. I'm going to live a long, long time — or at least I hope I am. If I eat gluten, my digestive system will be all messed up, I'll look old and haggard, I'll develop some medical problems and I'll gain weight. I don't want to live like that — sick and old and fat. Do you?”

There was a silence at the other end of the phone as George thought over what I had said. “Okay,” he said finally, “let's give it a try.”

WHAT IS GLUTEN?

Gluten is a form of protein found in wheat, rye, barley and many processed foods. Most of us tend to think, Oh, proteins — healthy! But some proteins cause our bodies a world of hurt, and the proteins found in gluten are among the worst culprits.

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