Getting Un-Glued

Gluten can damage your health and performance; here's how to stop it

By Vicki Hackman

Gluten - a protein combination found especially in wheat flour - gives dough its elasticity. Trouble is, that plant glue can cause some very sticky and serious health problems for humans. One in 100 people are estimated to have celiac disease, a form of gluten intolerance that causes severe digestive troubles. As many as 1 in 20 (and by some accounts, 1 in 3) Americans are believed to suffer from non-celiac gluten sensitivity, which can have other debilitating effects, involving the nervous system, endocrine system, skin, and joints.

Researchers explain that gluten can spark an inflammatory response that causes the immune system to go haywire. Giving up gluten for a few days, or just partially, doesn't cut it; it can take up to six months after quitting gluten to see the results. If you've experienced one or more of the following effects, it's time to get rid of the gluten once and for all, and experience the difference it can make in your athletic performance and daily health.

1. Gastrointestinal problems - Chronic abdominal pain or cramping, bloating, stomach upset, severe weight loss, and diarrhea can indicate celiac disease or a less severe form of gluten intolerance.

2. Headaches, tingling, numbness - A headache that occurs within an hour or two of ingesting wheat could be your cue that your body doesn't appreciate gluten. Tingling, pain, or numbness in the arms, legs, hands, or feet (called peripheral neuropathy) also can occur when the immune system causes antibodies to bind to nerve cells in response to gluten exposure.

3. Depression, mood changes, and/or brain fog - About one-third of those with celiac disease also suffer from depression, possibly due to an inability to absorb adequate amounts of zinc, B vitamins, and other nutrients linked to mood. Many people with gluten sensitivity also complain of an inability to concentrate, which improves after eliminating gluten.

4. Joint pain, swelling, or stiffness - The same inflammatory response that causes intestinal problems also commonly causes joint pain. Removing the gluten relieves the pain.

5. Skin rashes - Chronic inflammation of the intestinal wall in response to gluten can lead to "leaky gut syndrome," in which toxins can move into the bloodstream. The result can be a variety of skin rashes, including dermatitis herpetiformis, which causes burning and red, itchy bumps and other skin conditions.

Hammer Nutrition's Gluten-Free Fuels and Supplements

Eliminating gluten from your daily diet can be challenging. The first step is to avoid all foods that contain the grains wheat, barley, rye, and triticale. Amaranth, buckwheat, corn, flax, millet, quinoa, rice, and tapioca are safe grain substitutes. Also avoid malt beverages and vinegar, which usually are made from barley. Be cautious about any packaged foods, including baked goods, pastas, sauce mixes, and croutons, unless they are labeled "gluten free."

Hammer takes the guesswork out of your fueling! *All Hammer Nutrition products are gluten free! Endurolytes Fizz contains wheat germ oil, but rest assured, it is gluten free, too. The fractional amount of gluten (less than 5 ppm) is far less than the FDA's threshold of 20 or more ppm, defined as a gluten ingredient. And wheat germ oil is a far healthier alternative to the polyethylene glycol that other companies use in their effervescent electrolyte products. Also, check out our FREE downloadable cookbook, In the Kitchen with Hammer Nutrition, which contains lots of delicious, gluten-free recipes!