Oh, gluten-free! To be gluten-free means that one is choosing to abstain from foods that contain gluten, which is an umbrella term for a few different types of proteins (such as gliadin and glutenin) that are often difficult to digest for many. Foods that contain gluten include wheat, barley and rye, and heritage grains such as spelt, einkorn and kamut also contain gluten.
The reasons someone may avoid gluten can range widely. Someone with celiac disease has an immune response to the gluten they’re consuming, provoking a wide-range of severe inflammatory and autoimmune reactions. Other people who do not have a diagnosed condition may have poor digestive prowess, and the foods that contain gluten are still difficult for them to digest and break down properly, also leading potentially over time to increased levels of systemic inflammation in their bodies. Interesting to note that is while some people may tolerate gluten, they still could feel better removing the foods that naturally contain gluten from their diets due to their inability to potentially adequately digest other components in those grains, such as the carbohydrates (in which case, healing styles of eating like SCD or AIP may be useful in addition to a supplement protocol to help increase the integrity of the gut by the short-term removal of those additional complex carbohydrates).
I’d also like to make a note that people with any specific considerations regarding their thyroid, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, postpartum thyroiditis or Graves’ disease may benefit dramatically from consistent removal of gluten from their diets, as the gluten proteins themselves closely resemble the proteins of the tissue of the thyroid gland itself. An increase of consumption of gluten with these conditions, especially autoimmune thyroid conditions, means that there is more potential for unwanted immune activity when gluten is in the diet, and it can provoke increased autoimmune attacks on the thyroid as a result. Yikes!