Your Guide to Gluten: 5 Truths (and a lie)

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More and more conversations are being held around food sensitivity, which is bringing more culprits into the spotlight. We recently discussed FODMAPs, so now is as good a time as any to help decode gluten, as it seems some are still in confusion.

Gluten, as related to food sensitivity, is often discussed alongside Celiac disease, a digestive and autoimmune disorder. A study done by the Mayo Clinic and the National Institutes of Health estimates that about 1 in 141 people in the U.S. have celiac disease, although the disease often goes undiagnosed.

Whether you know someone with Celiac disease, think you might be gluten intolerant, or just want to know what everyone is arguing about, we’ve created a quick run-down to help you decode what gluten is, isn’t, and where it can be found.

 5 Truths about Gluten

1. It’s a protein.

As described by the Celiac Disease Foundation, gluten is a general name for the proteins found in wheat (durum, emmer, spelt, farina, farro, KAMUT® khorasan wheat and einkorn), rye and barley.

2. It acts as a glue.

Gluten helps foods maintain their shape, acting as a glue to hold them together. A frequent example would be bread.

3. It’s in more than just bread.

Gluten can be found in many types of foods, even ones that would not be expected, via a food’s use of wheat, rye and barley. Common examples include:

  • Pastas and noodles: Raviolis, dumplings, couscous, gnocchi, ramen, and soba noodles
  • Breads and baked goods: Croissants, pita, naan, bagels, muffins, rye and pumpernickel bread, flour tortillas, and cornbread
  • Cereals: Corn flakes, rice puffs, some oats, granola
  • Soups, sauces, and gravies: Soy sauce, cream sauces made with a roux
  • Salad dressings: May contain malt vinegar, soy sauce, flour
  • Crackers: Pretzels, goldfish, graham crackers
  • Beer

For a more comprehensive list, visit this list at celiac.org.

4. Gluten can cause digestive problems.

As described by the Mayo Clinic, when a person with Celiac disease eats food containing gluten, an immune response is triggered in the small intestine. Over time, this reaction produces inflammation that damages the small intestine’s lining and prevents absorption of some nutrients (malabsorption). The intestinal damage can cause weight loss, bloating and sometimes diarrhea.

5. Gluten is in some grains but not all.

Some gluten-free grains include: amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, montina (Indian rice grass), oats, quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff, and wild rice.

One lie: “Gluten-free automatically = healthy”

According to Mintel research, sales of gluten-free products grew 44 percent from 2011 to 2013. Their understanding is that perceptions of gluten-free foods have moved from being bland, boring substitutes for gluten-containing products to everyday items that appeal to those with and without a gluten allergy. Mintel’s research also found that 75% of consumers who do not have celiac disease or sensitivity to gluten eat these foods because they believe they are healthier, despite the lack of scientific research confirming the validity of this theory.

Long story short: Eating gluten-free the healthy way is not so much about eating products where the gluten has been removed as it is about focusing on eating the foods that give you proper nutrition.

Stay informed – read your labels and know what’s in your food. If the gluten has been removed, has it been replaced with anything? (sugar, corn, soy, etc.)

How WellnessFX Can Help

Think you may be gluten intolerant or have a food sensitivity? A 20-minute consultation with a WellnessFX nutritionist can help you with recommendations and a plan of action based on your own biochemistry.

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The posts on this blog are for information only, and are not intended to substitute for a doctor-patient or other healthcare professional-patient relationship nor do they constitute medical or healthcare advice of any kind. Any information in these posts should not be acted upon without consideration of primary source material and professional input from one's own healthcare professionals.