Sunday, June 17, 2012

Gluten. Is it bad?

Honestly, its just a protein found in wheat species.  Why is it the focus of so much hate?

Up to 1% of the population are true "celiacs."  These unfortunate souls have a reaction to partially-digested gliadin, which is a type of protein that will become gluten through further digestion.  In an epic situation of misguided immune response, digestion of gliadins in a celiac's intestine results in a protein that literally causes the immune system to attack the body's own intestine.  It's pretty unpleasant.  Symptoms include all sorts of intestinal difficulty and also poor nutrition (because the chronically-inflamed intestine is not doing its job and absorbing nutrients from our food) and failure to thrive in babies.

Gluten sensitivity is far more pervasive and most people don't even know they are victims of this vague disorder.  Not really an allergy and not really an auto-immunity, this disorder is just when the body reacts improperly to gluten and gluten precursor proteins.  Sensitivity to gluten can cause swelling, chronic inflammation, sinus issues, migraine, lethargy, intestinal disturbance, joint pain - really the list goes on and on.

So where do we find gluten?  EVERYWHERE.

Gluten protein is found in all stuff containing wheat, barley, rye, spelt.  Interestingly, grains like oats do not have the same "type" of gluten (the gliadin family) but they do have a similar protein which some celiacs cannot tolerate.  Only about 10% of celiacs and gluten-sensitive people have a reaction to oats, so they are generally considered "safe."  Quinoa is a different type of grain and therefore is naturally gluten-free.  The following is a life of "safe" grains:


So should you go Gluten-free?  Honestly?  That's up to each individual.  Do you have unexplained pain, swelling, bloating, attention issues, lethargy, depression and chronic sinus issues?  Well then what do you have to lose?  Go gluten-free and see what happens.  If after a few weeks of no gluten you feel 100% better, you may have your answer.  Then if you eat a bagel and your symptoms are back en force, you will be convinced.

But its not as easy as it seems - Gluten is everywhere.  The FDA allows 2 parts per million gluten in so-called Gluten Free foods.  If the label says gluten-free, it is safe by law.  However, if it doesn't say and you're looking for it on a label, look for this (information taken from this website).

Potential Sources of Gluten In Processed Foods and Beverages

Watch for these words on labels. They are a tip-off that the product contains gluten:
  1. Emulsifiers
  2. Flavorings
  3. Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
  4. Natural Flavorings
  5. Stabilizers
  6. Starch
  • Baked Bean (Canned)
  • Baking Powder
  • Beer
  • Breadings and coating mixes
  • Brown Rice Syrup (May contain malted barley)
  • Canned meats and fish in broth
  • Caramel Color (Usually corn derived, but check)
  • Cheese products- Sauces and some shredded cheeses
  • Condiments (Carefully read condiment labels. Gluten is often used as a stabilizer or thickening ingredient in ketchup, mustards and Oriental sauces)
  • Deli Meats, breaded fish and meats, pre-packaged ground beef products and hot dogs
  • Dextrin (Usually corn derived but always check)
  • Dry-roasted nuts
  • Flavorings, food starches, seasonings, and malt are general and vague words to watch for on labels of packaged foods. These terms are often clues that the product may contain gluten. For example, "malt" vinegar and "malted" milk powder contain gluten.
  • Frozen french fries (In the coating)
  • Gravy Products (Dry products, bouillion cubes, and processed, canned products)
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP) and Texturized Vegetable Protein (TVP)
  • Imitation fish, meats and cheeses
  • Instant flavored coffee/cocoa mixes
  • Licorice candy (black and red)
  • Matzo Meal
  • Modified Food Starch
  • Mono and di-glycerides
  • Pickled Products
  • Salad Dressings
  • Sauces, including soy sauce which is commonly made by fermenting wheat. (Check ALL processed sauce labels- From BBQ sauce to ice cream toppings, chili pepper products and tomato sauce products-all may contain gluten)
  • Sausage
  • Self-basting poultry products including turkey with added "solutions"
  • Snack foods including flavored potato chips and corn chips
  • Soups, stocks and broth
  • Spice and herb blends (spices and herbs in their natural form do not contain gluten)
  • Rice products with seasoning packets
End quote.

If all of these foods are potential gluten sources, what the heck can we eat?  Basically you need to cut out processed foods - which you should be doing anyway.

All I know is that I went gluten-free for 3 days and lost a pound, felt great, and was motivated to go further.  Yesterday I totally fell of the "wagon" of anti-inflammation food when I drank beer (wheat, sugar, alcohol, chemicals!) and ate some pretzels (actually in moderation but still).

Happy Father's Day to all of the Dads!  I'm off to spend some time with my favorite father - my husband!  (my own Dad is a close second :)

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