GLUTEN: A Sticky Subject

22 Jun

stackOcookies by Lynn Van Noy

You may have heard a lot of talk about gluten over the past few years.

Besides a fun discussion about the use of gluten in creamy delicious cupcakes and cookies, it’s most often unfortunately associated with words like “sensitivity” and “intolerance” and illnesses like Celiac Disease and auto-immune disorders.

What is gluten?

Gluten is the generic name for certain types of proteins contained in the common cereal grains wheat, barley, rye and their derivatives.

It’s no surprise the word gluten sounds very much like the word “glue.”  Since 1639, the word “gluten” has been defined as “any sticky substance,” from the nitrogenous part of the flour of wheat, otherwise called “glue.”

Simply put, gluten gets sticky and for folks who cannot digest it easily, it “agglutinates” in their stomach, balling up and becoming so bound up that everything else they eat just sticks to it.  Not only does this cause gas, bloating and over-all discomfort, but the long-term effects of gluten sensitivity are far-reaching.  Having a sticky indigestible mass of food in your stomach equals weight gain, elimination problems ranging from constipation to more severe cases of diarrhea, a strained immune system and an outrageous appetite since you are still hungry and unable to get the nutrients you need.

With auto-immune disorders on the rise and more people being diagnosed with Celiac Disease every day, we do well to pay close attention to how the foods we eat affect us.

Whole wheat may be great for some people but it is like poison for others.  Even if you are only slightly sensitive to gluten, reactions can worsen during times of lowered immunity.  By the same token, gluten may be causing duress on the immune system which shows up in a variety of not-so-obvious symptoms.  Damage may occur to the small bowel even when there are no symptoms present.  Your family physician or a Rheumatologist can administer an across-the-board blood screening that checks for any nutrient deficiency and allergy.

One thing’s for sure, gluten by any other name is just the same.  All forms of wheat, even refined versions like white flour can be just as toxic to your body, given an intolerance.

FOODS CONTAINING GLUTEN:

  • wheat
  • barley
  • rye
  • kamut
  • durum
  • semolina
  • triticale
  • soy
  • bulgur
  • pastas
  • beer
  • wheat germ
  • what grass
  • malt vinegar
  • brown rice syrup
  • soup and roux that contains flour

A diet lacking fiber can wreak havoc on the digestive system.  So it is important to remember that there are endless ways of getting your fiber that do not include belly bloat, risks to a variety of cancers and the inability to absorb nutrition.

GLUTEN-FREE FOODS WITH FIBER:

  • all fruits
  • all vegetables
  • all nuts and seeds
  • brown rice
  • rice flour
  • potatoes
  • amaranth
  • buckwheat
  • quinoa
  • wild rice
  • millet

The good news is that all fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beef, chicken, fish, lamb, pork and dairy products are naturally gluten-free.  Learn more about how gluten may affect your blood type in “Eat Right For Your Type” by Dr. Peter D’Adamo or  visit the Celiac Disease Foundation at www.celiac.org.

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