Should I Be Gluten Free??

Attended the natural foods show recently and one of the main themes of the show was gluten free products.

So I thought I'd do a little research. What I found is this. Gluten is a composite formed from several different proteins. It is found most commonly in wheat and other related grains, such as barley, semolina, and rye. Adding texture and a characteristic chewiness to baked goods, this ingredient is used in a wide variety of other foods as a thickener and binder, flavor enhancer, and protein supplement. Gluten, is often hidden under the name "dextrin" Dextrin is made by the hydrolysis of starch. This can be done with heat or by using acid. Dextrin is a low-cost and versatile "food glue" and thickening agent, appearing in many manufactured products. Gluten is also used in foods in some unexpected ways, in products like ice-cream and ketchup. Gluten can be found in soups and broths, as well as gravies and sauces, salad dressings, or marinades. Since it enhances flavor, it is used in bouillon, spice blends, and other foods such as coffees, dairy products, vinegars, and liquors. It can also be found in the substance used to seal envelopes since it acts as a stabilizer.

People wishing to follow a completely gluten free diet must also take into consideration the ingredients of any over-the-counter or prescription medication, and vitamins. Also, cosmetics such as lipstick, lip balms, and lip gloss may contain gluten. Special care is necessary when checking product ingredient lists since gluten comes in many forms, vegetable proteins and starch, modified food starch (when derived from wheat instead of corn, malt flavoring, including maltodextrine, dextrine and dextrose, unless specifically labeled as corn malt. Most baked goods include in their ingredients wheat or barley derivatives. Some advise people with no gluten allergies they have no need to cook gluten free. I and many other doctors and nutritionist disagree, but for those with wheat allergies or celiac disease, gluten-free cooking must become a way of life. Have no fear, several grains and starch sources are considered acceptable for a gluten-free diet. The most frequently used are corn, potatoes, rice, and tapioca. Various types of bean, and nut flours are sometimes used in gluten-free products to add protein and dietary fiber. In spite of its name, buckwheat is not related to wheat. Pure buckwheat is considered acceptable for a gluten-free diet, although many commercial buckwheat products are actually mixtures of wheat and buckwheat flours, and thus not acceptable. Gram flour, derived from chickpeas, is also gluten-free this is not the same as Graham flour made from wheat. Celiac disease, (gluten intolerance) is a genetic disease that is most common among people of northern European descent. Recent studies have shown the incidence of this disease in the USA to be 1 in 133 people. First and second degree family members of a person with celiac have a much higher chance of having the disease, more like a 1 in 20 chance. The symptoms of this disease are many and varied. They range from chronic diarrhea to chronic constipation and include depression, irritability, unexplained anemia, failure to gain weight, and early onset osteoporosis. This list is by no means all inclusive. No one person has all the symptoms of celiac.

People with celiac are gluten intolerant, they cannot digest the protein found in wheat. When the body detects gluten in the digestive tract, it attacks, trying to destroy the invader. Unfortunately, the result is that the intestines (especially the small intestines) are damaged in the fight. Some people's intestines are damaged badly enough that they cannot absorb any nutrients. They eat and eat and still look like they are starving to death. This is because they ARE starving to death. The food they eat cannot be absorbed by their bodies and basically goes right through them. Other people seem to have "selective" absorption problems, the fat gets through all right, but iron or calcium, or something else doesn't seem to make it. So, what should you do if you suspect that you may have celiac? The first thing to do is to find out as much as you can about the disease. Now, what should you do if you are tested for celiac and everything comes back negative, but you still feel awful? Discuss a gluten-free diet with your physician, and (if recommended) try it for a while. You should also continue working with a physician to determine if there are other possible roots to your problems. Avoiding gluten would do you little good if your real problem was cancer, for example. According to FDA guidelines, products containing trace elements of gluten (10 ppm or less) can be labeled gluten free. This may not be enough to trigger a reaction in everyone, still I'm sure that's not very comforting, and could still result in intestinal damage in cases of Celiac Disease.

Generally, bread flours are high in gluten (hard wheat) and pastry flours have a lower gluten content. More refining of the added gluten leads to chewier products such as pizza and bagels. Wheat gluten, is often the basis for imitation meats resembling chicken, duck (mock duck), fish, pork and beef. When cooked in broth, gluten absorbs some of the surrounding liquid (including the taste) and becomes firm to the bite. Personally I have no allergies to wheat, however I have worked hard over the past year to eliminate wheat products from my diet and I'm sure I feel much better for it. Many of my personal training clients have also experienced similar results, by limiting their wheat intake. As I said in the beginning of the article the natural foods industry has taken up our cause and is attempting to produce a larger variety of gluten free foods. So sit tight, selection and variety help is on the way. Look for the gluten free sticker. Good Luck...

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