Is gluten a bad food? An Ayurvedic view.
In recent years gluten has been put in the list of food to avoid. We see gluten free labels increasing (and their price), putting gluten in the spotlight. Many people have gluten intolerance, which means, inability to digest or break down the gluten protein found in wheat and certain other grains. This gluten sensitivity can range from a mild sensitivity to gluten allergy and celiac disease. We see gluten free labels increasing (and their price), putting gluten in the spotlight.
Is it gluten really a bad for you?
What Ayurveda say about gluten?
Gluten is a general name for the proteins found in man grains like wheat, narey, rye, farro, spelt, etc.
Gluten is a very hard to digest protein that requires a specifically strong acid in the stomach to process it, a strong Agni. A weak Agni or weak digestion, cannot break down the gluten protein in the stomach. If gluten passes through the stomach undigested, can cause irritation to the intestinal villi and create condition for disease.
Ayurveda say that we should eat seasonally, seasonal food is naturally ayurvedic.
If we follow the natural harvesting cycles, wheat (gluten rich grain with. heavy and warming qualities) will only be available in winter. This is when the digestive fire is at its strongest and able to digest it. This is also the time when we need the warm and heavy qualities of grains to balance the cold and dry qualities of winter and the Vata season.
Traditionally grains will be prepared in a way that makes them easier to digest.
Sourdough bread, the fermentation process breaks down the gluten protein and renders it much easier to digest. This process will increase the hot qualities and the sour which both increase Pitta and balance Vata. The heat balance Kapha, however sour taste will increase Kapha, hence Kapha people should limit the consumption of sourdough.
Gluten, in its generic form, simply refers to the proteins grass plants build into their seeds (which we know as grains) to support and nourish the growth of the next generation of plants.
Overnight soaking/sprouting softens the grain and activates enzymes within the grain that begin to break down and release this protein (like it naturally happens when you want to grow the seed into a plant).
Then the process of cooking breaks it down further, making it easier to digest.
What is happening nowadays is that wheat products are in everyday diets and in large quantities.This overwhelming amount of gluten, along with increasing stress, toxins, processed food, GMO food, will bog down the digestive process and begin to let the gluten through the stomach without being properly broken down.
How can we eat grain with gluten and still be healthy?
Ayurveda tell us to follow natural cycles and that seasonal food is naturally ayurvedic, Grains and all food in general, should be eaten in the season they are harvested. Grains are harvested in Autumn which Ayurveda consider the Vata season, therefore they should be eaten during the Vata season (Autumn to Mid winter).
Ayurveda is not against gluten, however high quantities or products with high gluten content can be difficult and slow to digest. One should consider individual Dosha and Agni strength when eating food with gluten including time of the year, how the (organic non-GMO) grains containing gluten are prepared and cooked and quantities (how much and how often).
A balanced Ayurvedic diet can have grains with gluten and be useful in balance Vata in particular.