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If you’ve been grocery shopping recently, chances are you’ve noticed the increased volume of products labeled “gluten free” on the shelves. This is due to an increased awareness of “gluten intolerance” in America. It’s also becoming increasingly popular to eat gluten-free in Hollywood, which I think contributes to the hype.
If you’re like me, you have probably wondered, “What’s this “gluten” business is all about?” Gluten is basically a protein found it wheat and related grains. It gives dough a certain elasticity, helping it to rise and keep shape, ultimately giving it a chewy texture. You also may be wondering, like me, “If it’s a protein, then why is it so bad for you?” Well, think about lactose intolerance. Lactose isn’t bad for you. When you are born, the first (and only) thing you can have for the first 5 months of your life is milk. So, if God intended us to drink lactose from day one, how can it be bad? Well, the short answer is: it’s not. It’s only bad for the rare few who have developed an allergy to lactose.
Similarly, gluten intolerance only affects .5-1% of Americans. Whoa, wait, .5-1%?! Then why are we hearing so much about it? I believe it’s like cancer. Cancer was around long before anyone knew what to call it and how to diagnose it. With increased screening for gluten related disorders, such as Celiac disease, awareness is all the sudden booming. Personally, I think it’s becoming more of a diet fad with most people, and that a large number of “gluten intolerance” cases are hypochondriacal (not to discount that there are some out there who have a very real illness).
Celiac disease is a very rare disorder, and it is often confused with a wheat allergy. It is important to note that the two are not the same! Celiac disease is an abnormal immune response to gliadin (a type of gluten), that affects nutrient absorption, causing an inflammatory reaction in the small-bowel tissue. This can be quite uncomfortable, but not always. Accompanying symptoms may include: diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain, cramping, etc. Celiac is usually a genetic predisposition, and the only known “cure” is to eat a 100% gluten-free diet, for life.
A wheat allergy is just that: an allergy to wheat. Wheat allergy sufferers do not have to ingest wheat to feel its affects. It can be inhaled (like any other airborne allergen) or accidentally consumed by something as simple as using a contaminated eating utensil (for example, if you’re sharing food with someone). There are 27 different types of possible wheat allergies (one of which is gluten), all differing in symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment. Therefore, if you have a wheat allergy, you may or may not be gluten-intolerant.
So, how do you even eat gluten free? Well, it’s not easy, and it’s not cheap. It takes awareness, effort, and an increased budget for groceries. First, look for “gluten free” on the label. That’s a dead give away. (Note: “Wheat free” does not mean “gluten free”, as I mentioned earlier, as gluten can come from other grain related sources.) You can also look for words like “wheat” or “starch” in the ingredient list. Stay away from those, as they usually mean gluten is present. Finally, read the allergen statement. If it lists “wheat allergy”, then it is likely that it contains gluten.
I hope this gives you a little more insight to what gluten is, and how it affects you. I invite anyone to leave feedback regarding your experience and knowledge on eating gluten-free and Celiac disease, as I do not suffer from these myself, and am writing as an outsider.
Until next time, age well and live long!
Freelance Writer- Holly BoneThis post is that of a freelance writer and not an employee or affiliate of Moni’s Natural or its subsidiaries nor reflects the views we may.