Gluten also has the capacity to absorb which is why bread soaks up liquids. Gluten was separated from the grain by Buddhist monks and added to vegetable broths to provide protein to their vegetarian diets. Gluten is also often added to commercially prepared pet foods to enhance their protein content.
Why should I be aware of this?
Some people are allergic to gluten. This allergy or sensitivity is known as celiac disease. Individuals suffering from this disease must completely eliminate gluten from their diet as this disease can be fatal. In this disease the small intestine gets inflamed and the villi that line the walls of the small intestine get damaged. Over a period of time this reduces their capacity of absorption, leading to malnutrition.
Some of the symptoms of gluten intolerance are diarrhoea, abdominal bloating and pain, constipation, foul-smelling gas and stools.
One of the symptoms of gluten-related skin sensitivity is dermatitis herpetiformis. This is an intensely itchy skin condition which almost always accompanies celiac disease.
All about gluten
Gluten is found in most types of cereals, notably rye, wheat and barley. However, not all grains contain gluten. The proteins found in rice and corn are sometimes referred to as gluten but they are different in composition from the gluten found in wheat in that they lack glutenin.
To avoid gluten in the diet, wheat, barley, rye and oats must be completely eliminated. The labels of all food products must be carefully checked as gluten is added to many food preparations. Gluten is also added to lipsticks, the glue on postage stamps and several medications.
It is safe to eat poultry, fish, dairy products, unprocessed vegetables and fruit, potatoes, rice, soy, corn, tapioca, arrowroot, millet, montina, lupine, quinoa, jowar, sweet potato, taro, teff, gramflour and yam.
It is possible to remove gluten from wheat flour by rinsing the bread dough. Since beer is brewed with barley or wheat, beer is not safe for people suffering from gluten intolerance. Some beer manufacturers use buckwheat instead of barley or wheat but gluten free beer remains a speciality product. Most other forms of alcohol are considered safe provided no gluten has been used as an additive.
Completely removing gluten from the diet will cause all the gluten allergy symptoms to subside. Eventually any intestinal damage that may have been caused by the allergy will heal as well. Children tend to recover within six months while adults may take several years to recover from the effects of the allergy.
Controversy regarding oats
Traditionally oats have been grouped with other grains such as wheat, rye and barley as “gluten grains”. Many doctors advise people from who suffer from gluten intolerance to eliminate oats from their diet. However, recent research has suggested that wheat should be treated separately from the other grains owing to the fact that wheat is the main culprit of the allergy. Besides, oats has multiple health benefits. While it might be wise to eliminate it completely from the diet while treating gluten allergy, at some point it should be re-introduced and if an adverse reaction does not occur, it can prove nutritionally very beneficial.
Recent research has shown that oats contain a protein called avenin that closely resembles gluten. This can produce a dangerous adverse reaction in certain celiac sufferers and have absolutely no effect on other celiac sufferers.
While oats are now regarded as virtually gluten free by most medical practitioners, there is always the possibility of cross contamination taking place during processing or distribution, especially if there are they are produced or processed at the same farm, mill etc.
Gluten free flour
Many gluten free flours are higher in protein or in amino acids - take quinoa or amaranth, which were staples in the ancient South American cultures. Some are higher in fibre and others have more flavour than conventional flour.
- Amaranth flour -- This is milled from the seeds of the amaranth plant which can be grown in the garden. It has a higher percentage of protein and the amino acid lysine, and is more fibrous.
- Arrowroot flour -- Is made from the rhizomes of the tropical plant, Maranta arundinacea - the Bermuda Arrowroot.
- Chestnut flour: Made from Sweet Chestnuts, which are quite low in fat and calories for nuts. This pale brown flour has a slightly sweet and nutty flavour.
- Chickpea flour (also called chana, gram or besan flour): A bright yellow protein-rich flour with a very definite flavour made from dried chickpeas and widely available in the UK.
- Corn flour: In the UK this is the silky white flour made from the starchy part of maize, it is a flavourless light flour
- Fine Cornmeal: This is made from ground whole cornmeal, and is usually available as pale yellow very slightly gritty flour; sometimes labeled fine polenta.
- Gluten-free flour mix: Many supermarkets carry these now. One good range has a four-grain mixture of rice flour, buckwheat flour, potato starch, and tapioca flour.
- Millet flour: This yellow flour is high in protein and easy to digest. However, it has a tendency to dryness and so is best used with other flours.
- Potato flour (potato starch): Steamed potatoes are dried and then ground to a powder to make this gluten-free flour, which is commonly used in baked goods for Passover (when wheat flour may not be used).
Many commercially prepared foods contain gluten but the labels do not mention it because gluten is used not in the process of formulation but in the preparation. A good example of this is the dusting of conveyor belts in factories with wheat flour to prevent the food products from sticking to them.
- Celiac Disease
- Food Allergies
- Digestion Restoration
- Whole Grain
- Reading Food Labels
- ‘Free-From’ Food Market