Gluten is a naturally occurring substance found in wheat and other grain products. Its purpose in nature is to provide the requirements for seed germination and propagation. Gluten is found in the endosperm of a grain plant. When ingested by humans, it can cause a variety of negative symptoms in certain individuals.
Some sources estimate gluten intolerance to some degree exists in 75% of all humans. This would represent a staggering number of affected individuals. If even a half or a quarter of the population were experiencing a significant effect from wheat ingestion, it is still a remarkable number of affected people. The symptoms of wheat intolerance, specifically gluten sensitivity, consist of several vague and generalized complaints.
- Constipation or other gastrointestinal changes often confused with irritable bowel syndrome are present. These include abdominal distension, abdominal pain or cramping, and diarrhea.
- Fatigue or listlessness sometimes described as a lack of ambition.
- Weight change. This includes weight gain or difficulty losing weight despite caloric reduction and increased physical activity. It can also cause weight loss and failure to thrive in children.
- A generalized feeling of unease or enhancement of a preexisting depression or anxiety.
- Foul smelling flatulence or BM’s.
- Urticaria (hives).
- Weight loss or in children failure to thrive.
- Malabsorption syndromes.
- Steatorrhea or fatty stools.
- Skin rash, including eczematous dermatitis or acne.
Celiac disease is the inherited condition of gluten intolerance. It is thought that 1 in 105 Americans have celiac disease. It is an inherited disorder of a specific defect in three proteins. These three proteins have a very specific role in how a human body deals with the metabolic processing of ingested wheat and other gluten containing grains.
Celiac disease is a result of an autoimmune process. The genetic programming of those with true celiac disease allows a molecular mediated reaction to occur. This allows a local reaction in the lining of the intestine to occur as a result of antibody production. The target in the intestines of the antibody response allows local inflammation of the surrounding intestines. This provides the typical symptoms in someone with celiac disease. The only current therapy for celiac disease is total dietary abstinence of all gluten sources. There are no medications or supplements to correct this inborn error of metabolism. Simple avoidance of gluten sources provides a cure to the symptoms of celiac disease.
Depending upon the specific pattern of inheritance, symptoms of gluten intolerance range from the full syndrome expressed from full blown celiac disease, to the expression of very few of the symptoms associated with gluten insensitivity.
There are specific blood tests that can confirm the diagnosis of celiac disease; however, a negative blood assay does not rule out the various other forms of the condition. Many gastroenterologists recommend that if the blood testing is negative, symptomatic patients should try a week of an absolutely free gluten diet. If symptoms improve, a diagnosis of non-celiac gluten intolerance (NCGI), or gluten sensitivity can be considered.
Wheat allergy is a completely different consideration. Stimulation of the hypersensitivity or allergic reactions from wheat exposure differs from the autoimmune process of celiac disease. In wheat allergy, the reaction is mediated by a different pathway than celiac disease. Wheat allergy produces the typical hypersensitivity type I reaction involving histamine and cytokines, not a local tissue auto immune process.
The role of gluten in physical exercise and training is controversial. Certainly if 75% of the general population is in some way affected by gluten in tolerance, then three quarters of wellness/fitness minded people are also affected. Even at the minimal expression, gluten can cause generalized malaise and bowel irregularity. In its mildest form, gluten insensitivity can contribute to decrease the positive outcomes from wellness and fitness endeavors. There are no specific or unique benefits to the ingestion of gluten in the human diet.
Gluten is a silent partner in many commonly ingested food products. Found in wheat, it is also a component in rye and barley. In the baking process, gluten provides the elasticity to bread, pastries, and flour thickened sauces. The gluten is not disarmed by the baking or cooking process.
- Bread and bread rolls
- Biscuits or cookies
- Bulgar wheat
- All bran
- Barley water drinks
- Rye or pumpernickel breads
- Pastry or pie crusts
- Pasta – macaroni, spaghetti, etc
- Pizza dough
- Sponge puddings
- Malted milk drinks
- Barley Sugar
- Yorkshire pudding
- Stuffings and dressings
- Crisp breads
- Crumble toppings
- Gravy powder and browning.
- Seitan (another name for gluten)
- Self basting turkeys
- Brown rice syrup
- Soy sauce
- Chutneys and pickles
- White pepper
- Luncheon meat
- Matzo flour/ meal
- Cheap brands of chocolate
- Drinking chocolate
- Salad dressings
- Malt vinegar
- Bleu cheese
- Baked beans
- Instant coffee
- Communion wafers
- Imitation crab meat
- Fresh meat
- Fish and shellfish
- Poultry and game
- Fresh herbs
- Dried fruit
- Cottage cheese (not cheese spreads)
- Milk (when newly diagnosed you may be lactose intolerant)
- Dried beans, peas and pulses
- Vegetable oils, sunflower oil, olive oil
- Almonds, ground or whole
- Rice, ground, long or short grain
- Rice cakes/crackers
- Rice flour (and other gluten free flours)
- Cream of tartar
- Bicarbonate of soda
- Dried peppercorns
- Cornflour (from the maize plant)
- Tamari soy sauce
- Yogurts (without crunchy bits)
- Cider vinegar
- Wine vinegar
- Distilled vinegar
- Flax seed
- Corn Tortillas
- Corn taco
- Popcorn (check any coating)
- Homemade soups (not roux based)
- Jelly (jello)
- Golden syrup
- Black treacle or molasses
- Tea (check herb teas first)
- Fruit juice
- gluten free beer
- Xanthan gum (replaces “elastic” quality of gluten)
Eliminating gluten from the diet as a treatment of celiac disease, or to eliminate any number of possible gluten relayed symptoms, can be accomplished with minimal if any forfeit of enjoyable cuisine. Actually, most commonly enjoyed foods are gluten free. The few things that contain gluten, when identified, are easily replace with gluten free alternatives.
A gluten free diet significantly contributes to a low carbohydrate weight reduction program. The action of gluten provides increased calories and carbohydrates in the final product it creates. A central beneficial effect in being gluten free is weight loss and stabilization.
One of the most difficult things to change in a gluten free diet is bread. Recently, the availability of good tasting breads with an extended shelf life has become widely accessible. Gluten free products are in general considerably more expensive than mass produced wheat based breads. Rice based and other non-gluten containing ingredients are used in baked goods by companies such as Udi and a line of breads called Genius by Glutino. Rudi’s Gluten Free offers specialty bread products like cinnamon raison bread. A variety of companies have joined the trend against gluten ingestion offering a wide variety of easily available choices.
There are many gluten free recipes available on the web to bake homemade gluten free breads. In addition, pre-prepared mixes for easy preparation have also become available to the general population. Baking your own gluten free breads and treats at home can be enjoyable, creative and significantly reduce the costs of buying commercial products.
Many resources, particularly breweries have claimed that due to the processing in commercial beer brewing, all beer is gluten free. There is a protein in barley called hordein which is very similar and acts similarly to gliadin, which is the root of celiac disease. So, while the evidence is still inconclusive, commercially produced beer may not be totally free of gluten like symptoms. Many beers are available on the market that has the glycoproteins responsible for gluten symptoms removed.
Are you a glass half empty or half full person? Looking at becoming gluten free can be viewed as an effort and sacrifice. It can also be seen as an opportunity to feel physically and emotionally improved, become creative while being proactive, and focus on wellness and fitness instead of negative aspects.
It does not require an expensive commitment or costly medical tests. Simply become aware of all the potential gluten contributors in your daily diet. Commit to a one week gluten free trial for yourself or entire family. At the end of the week, if the if the beneficial effects are enough, it will be easy to maintain gluten free status. If significant improvement in bowels, mood, energy or other associated systems is not appreciated, then all that has been lost are some useless calories and carbohydrates while off wheat products. It seems like a small price to pay for a potentially great outcome.
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