What is gluten?

Gluten is a mixture of proteins present in some cereal grains, especially wheat.  It consists almost primarily of two proteins, gliadin and glutelin.  The exact proportions depend upon the variety of grain.  It is responsible for making bread spongy.  However, gluten does not agree with everyone.  Some digestive problems are associated with a gluten intolerance such as celiac disease. 

Gliadin has several components.  It is a syrupy substance that binds the dough.  Gliadin is also the protein in rye flour and in a wheat-and-rye blend called triticale.

What is gluten intolerance?

A digestive tract that cannot tolerate gluten is characterized by malabsorption of nutrients. This is due to damage and inflammation in the small intestine.  When gluten intolerance becomes an extreme condition, it is called celiac disease, non-tropical sprue, or gluten-sensitive enteropathy.  Symptoms may include weight loss, failure to thrive in children, greasy and foul smelling stools, diarrhea and various brain related symptoms such as ADD, depression and anxiety.  There is often vitamin and mineral deficiencies.  Eczema-like skin conditions usually occur with a gluten intolerance.

One of the hallmark signs of celiac disease is iron deficiency anemia and extreme fatigue.  Also present are low serum calcium levels.  Breast-fed children, along with delayed introduction of cereals and cow’s milk, can provide a protective effect that greatly reduces the risk of developing gluten intolerance.  Most people diagnosed with celiac disease experience relief soon after starting a gluten-free diet.

Dermatitis, dermatitis herpetiformis, psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, and inflammatory bowel disease may also be the results of a gluten intolerance. 

Gluten intolerance is an underlying trigger of most autoimmune diseases:  Multiple Sclerosis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis.

Other symptoms may include:  brain fog, joint pains, migraines, headaches.

Do I have to have celiac disease to be intolerant to gluten?

You can have “gluten intolerance” and not have celiac disease.  There are two major types of genes that relate to either gluten sensitivity or celiac disease.  You can have either one or a

combination of the two.  You may also have neither gene.  If you have the genes for gluten intolerance, and you continue to eat gluten containing grains you may very well end up with a more serious disease.  If you have celiac, you already have an autoimmune disease and must be off of gluten for life.  It is estimated that almost 40% of the U.S. population carries the genes for either celiac or gluten sensitivity.

If you are uncertain if you have the genes, go online and order a test from Entero Labs and run the gene profile.

Am I sensitive to wheat because it contains gluten?

You can be sensitive to wheat, but not because it contains gluten.  Other factors to consider are the many molds that grow on wheat and the use of pesticides.  When you are ready to

reintroduce wheat back into your diet, try organic wheat first. 

What other foods besides wheat contain gluten?

Oat, rye, barley, most beers, Postum, products containing cereals, and anything containing barley malt, triticale, kamut, spelt, and amaranth.

Millet has small amounts of gluten but virtually no gliadin.  Malt comes from sprouted barley and from the hydrolyzed starch of other grains.  Hordein is so similar to gliadin that it should be avoided by people intolerant to gluten.

What grains can I eat?

Brown rice Millet Wild rice Corn**

Wild rice Buckwheat Quinoa

**Please note that many corn products are contaminated with gluten and corn is among the top ten of the most allergenic of foods.

What are some gluten free flours?

These flours can be used in baking and added to sauces as a thickener.

Arrowroot Bean flours Brown rice Nut and seed

Soybean Kudzu Sweet rice flours

Garbanzo Potato Malonga (sweet potato) Corn

Tapioca Sorghum

***Make certain that the flours are wheat free.  It is common to find wheat added to other types of flours.

What about other food intolerances?

People who cannot tolerate wheat fiber or gluten often have delicate stomachs or intestinal linings.  This creates a sensitivity to many foods.  They may experience difficulty tolerating raw vegetables and other fiber-rich foods.

Other foods to avoid:

Coffee substitutes Desserts made from grains

Commercial chocolate All commercial desserts and mixes

Malted milk Ice cream

Postum Sherbet

Ovaltine Commercially prepared entrees

Ale Processed cheese and cheese products

Beer containing gluten stabilizers

Brandy Meat alternatives

Grain alcoholic beverages Protein substitutes with vital wheat gluten

Instant coffee Maltodextrin

All breads and cereals made from gluten grains

Tips for Starting a Gluten Free Diet

If you need to adopt a gluten free diet or even if you find that going gluten free improves your health, here are some tips to help you navigate the sometimes tricky world of gluten free living.

Become a vigilant label reader.

Take a list of allowed and not allowed foods to the grocery store.

Most stores now have gluten-free products.  Many stores provide a list of products.

Wheat-free is not gluten free!

If you like to eat oats, there are some available at glutenfreeoats.com.

Start simply by substituting gluten free foods for your favorite wheat based products:

Brown rice pasta, brown rice, brown rice bread, rice bran cereal, corn bran cereal.