What is Gluten?

Many people may have heard about gluten in daily life, but most do not know that gluten is in fact a mixture of proteins. It is found in grains such as wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is the substance that gives dough its elasticity as well as helping it to rise while cooking giving the final product a chewy texture. Foods containing gluten include cereals, pasta, bread, cakes and cookies and lots of other processed foods. Many food manufacturers will include gluten in their processed food as fillers so even if the food may not necessarily contain grain, it may still contain gluten used in its production.

Individuals with gluten intolerance may experience pain from the difficulty protein digesting enzymes have with processing the gluten proteins, however this would not cause damage to the stomach lining as opposed to coeliac disease. In some people, gluten can cause more serious health problems including coeliac disease, gluten alaxia, dermatitis herpetiformis and wheat allergy. People with diagnosed coeliac disease should avoid all gluten as these people have an abnormal immune response to gluten and it damages the lining of the small intestine. This in turn prevents important nutrients from being absorbed into the body. The only way to know if you are suffering from coeliac disease is to be tested, typically by a blood test. Symptoms of this disease include diarrhoea, anaemia, bone pain and severe skin rash.

Unfortunately avoiding gluten is the only methods for those of us who suffer from the serious health conditions stemming from the inability of the stomach to process gluten. Luckily there are many other alternatives other than gluten. More and more grocery and health food stores are now stocking gluten-free products, because many people feel better on a diet with less gluten. So there is no need to despair.

Food grains that do not contain gluten are but not limited to:

  • Corn (cornflour, cornmeal)
  • Plain rice in all forms
  • Amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat (kasha), cassava, flax, millet, quinoa, sorghum, soya, tapioca and teff
  • Flours made from gluten free grains, nuts, beans and coconut

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