What is Gluten?
Gluten is a type of protein stored with starch and found in various cereals and grains like; barley, rye, oats, wheat and hybrid species like spelt, Kamut, emmer, etc. Gluten gives the sticky texture of the dough and keeps its shape and chewiness when baked.
So What’s the Deal with Gluten?
Regrettably, many people experience uncomfortable symptoms after consuming food that contains gluten. There is more and more evidence, everyday, to prove that gluten sensitivity is genuine. Many are becoming aware of gluten-related diseases, and how to avoid them, making the subject increasingly controversial.
Gluten sensitivity is a real issue that triggers Celiac Disease (DD) or gluten intolerance, Non-Celiac Gluten Sensitivity (NCGS), wheat allergy and Dermatitis Herpetiformis (DH). Unfortunately, the causes of Gluten Sensitivity have not been established, except that immune system and genetics could be the mechanism behind it.
2 MAIN REASONS Attribute to Gluten Sensitivity
When the immune system responds abnormally to gluten by destroying the villi, it causes an autoimmune disorder called Celiac Disease. The villi are small parts of the intestines that absorb nutrients. When the villi do not function properly, it leads to malnutrition and permanent intestinal damage. In children, failure to take in nutrients during early years of growth and development can cause health problems such as delayed puberty, short stature, mood swings, weight loss and dental defects.
Symptoms of Celiac Disease:
The symptoms vary from children to adults and the type of gluten ingested.
These are the common symptoms for children:
- Abdominal fluctuation
- Chronic Constipation
- Sharp stomach pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Chronic diarrhea
- Pale and foul-smelling stool
Symptoms in Adults:
- Fatigue: Mal-nutrition can cause low energy levels with decreased activity tolerance.
- Headaches: Migraines are common and often triggered by gluten (allergy).
- Anemia: Common secondary to damage to the small intestines, causing malabsorption of iron.
- Eczema: Common with gluten sensitivity.
- Joint pain: Imflammation triggered by immune system (hands,feet,knees,shoulders,etc)
- Tingling: Gluten intolerance & neuropathy (CMT) seem to be linked
- Sores inside the mouth
- Infertility/Miscarriage and/or irregular menstrual cycles
There are no standard ways to test for Gluten Sensitivity but the most common and closest way to test is by
Blood Test: Standard blood test (tTG-IgA) can be taken to look for antibodies that incorrectly interact with gluten protein, or
Biopsy: Consulting a specialist with the biopsy from your small intestine to check for any internal damages
NON CELIAC GLUTEN SENSITIVITY (NCGS)
NCGS affect only about 0.5- 13% of world population. People classified under this do not test positive for Celiac Disease or wheat allergy, but they still show abnormal reactions similar to CD and wheat allergy after consuming gluten. It is included under the gluten-related disorder, but the leading causes are yet to be ascertained by researchers and specialists.
Symptoms of Non-Celiac gluten sensitivity
- Stomach pain
- Change in bowel movement
- Physical and mental Fatigue
- Skin rashes
- A frequent headache
Because gluten sensitivity is a newly established disease, there are no standard bio-meters to diagnose it yet so the antidote is to avoid food that contains gluten.
Curbing gluten entirely from your diet is a huge challenge. It requires a tremendous amount of dedication and a whole lifestyle change.
Some of the primary sources of gluten in food that can be avoided are wheat, barley, brewer’s yeast, rye and malt.
Here is a list of gluten-free food
Grains and starch
- Organic Oats
- Nut Flour
- Nuts and seeds
- Fresh red meat, poultry and seafood
Proteins that may have gluten added:
Processed meat, cold cuts, ground meat, veggie burgers and other meat substitutes
- Coconut oil
- Ground pepper
- Olive Oil
- Almond milk
- Fruit juice
- Sodas and fizzy drinks
Most beer, ale and lagers contain gluten, so it is always advised to have a second look to make sure that the beverages are labelled as gluten-free
All organic vegetables, fruits and legumes are naturally gluten-free, and they should frequently be used as substitutes for non-gluten free food to maintain a balanced diet.
Consuming minimally processed food is the key to leading a gluten-free life. There are many substitutes for food that contain gluten these days, but it is essential to differentiate between proper gluten-free labels and the commercially available ones. It is to be noted that “wheat-free” does not mean “gluten-free” so be wary of misleading labels.
How to Live with Gluten Sensitivity
- Reading food labels: educate yourself about the list of gluten-free food and make sure that you take your time reading the labels when you shop at the market
- Buy gluten-free cookbook: this may help you to substitute essential ingredients and cook more creative food that is equally tasty and provide sufficient nutritional requirements
- Plan ahead: to save time, plan your grocery list and meal preparations ahead. Also, research places to eat and shop before you visit a new site
- Take your own food: this way, you will not feel left when everyone else is enjoying their food
- Have separate cooking utensils: to prevent accidental contamination with gluten from other food.
- Share your condition. If people you eat with are aware that you are on a diet, they are more likely to offer you gluten –free options wherever you eat.
While a gluten-free diet may relieve many symptoms of gluten intolerance, some of the downsides are:
Gluten sensitive people often avoid food that is natural and opts for processed food labelled as gluten-free which leads to a weakness in fibre, iron, calcium, vitamins, folate and zinc.
Constipation is a common side effect of a gluten-free diet as they eliminate fibre rich sources like bread, wheat-based products and bran. To avoid this, eat more fibre-rich natural food supplements.
Since gluten-free food is often double the price of regular counterparts, it could pinch your budget. Opt for whole, single-ingredient food to cut expenses.
Gluten sensitivity is a real issue and though there are many unanswered questions, this condition, unfortunately, does cause a lot of complications for people, and until evident proof on how to diagnose it is established, it is best to choose “real food”.