Gluten and gluten-free diets are increasingly discussed in the media. The following is aimed to separate researched fact from the many myths surrounding this substance found in numerous foods that have been consumed by humans worldwide for thousands of years.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein.
Which foods contain gluten?
Many grains, particularly wheat and its varieties; spelt, kamut, farro and durum, wheat products bulgur and semolina, plus rye and barley. Additionally, triticale, a hybrid of wheat and rye, is on this list. The list of foods containing gluten include soy sauce, ketchup, white vinegar, mustard, beer, ale, some bourbon and scotch. Most bread products and breaded meats will contain gluten.
Who should avoid gluten?
Those with celiac disease must avoid gluten. 1 in 133 people have the disease, which involves flattening or destruction of the villi (hair-like structures) that line the small intestine and are responsible for proper absorption of nutrients from food.
Those with gluten allergies are estimated to be as high as 6% of the population, with varying degrees of severity. Many in this group may tolerate small amounts without symptoms.
What are the symptoms for a gluten allergy?
In general, the symptoms are similar to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), including bloating, cramping, nausea and diarrhea.
What are the health risks of going gluten free?
Gluten free diets are typically deficient in the B-complex vitamins folate, thiamine (B1), riboflavin (B2), and niacin (B3).
What foods other than grains are rich sources of these B-complex vitamins?
All of these may be obtained by eating beans and legumes, liver, pork, poultry, and dark leafy greens, especially broccoli.
Which grains are gluten-free?
Amaranth, buckwheat, corn, millet, montina (Indian rice grass), oats, quinoa, rice, sorghum, teff, and wild rice. Oats are inherently gluten-free, but may become contaminated if grown in soil that produced wheat, or during milling and processing.
If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease or suspect you may be allergic to gluten, consult with your physician. Supplements may be required to boost your dietary intake of the aforementioned vitamins. Finally, consult with a nutritionist or dietician to assist in incorporating these vital nutrients in your diet.