What is gluten and where do we find it?
Gluten is cohesive, elastic protein, and is responsible for giving dough elasticity, chewiness and bounciness. Gluten is made up of many different proteins, two main groups are called the gliadins and the glutenins. In Latin "gluten" means glue.
Gluten is found in wheat (only wheat is considered to have true gluten), rye, barley, spelt, triticale and many other names for wheat: bulgur, durum wheat, kamut, whole wheat, flour, couscous, semolia, graham, seitan ... or anything with "wheat" in the name: wheat germ, wheat protein ... (except for buckwheat and wheat grass - like any other grass, is gluten-free).
The most common foods that contain gluten are:
bread, pizza, beer, pasta, pretzels, chocolate, crackers, deli meat, doughnuts, cookies, muffins, cupcakes, pancakes, sauces, soy sauce, tortillas (even corn), processed foods (read labels!) and even toothpaste. Even food that doesn't contain gluten can be contaminated by coming into contact with equipment in the same factory (oats for example).
When gluten enters your body, immune system responds by attacking the gluten and unfortunately, also attacks your body. When gluten reaches small intestine, the villi (they provide absorption of nutrients and help food to move along the digestive pathways) are damaged (glues them together), which leads to that your body can't absorb nutrients properly. Toxins and gluten can pass through damaged villi and enter the bloodstream. Body will respond by foreign substances by attacking them, as well as healthy cells. Malnutrition is very common and can lead to many different symptoms.
|Happy healthy villi vs. sad glued villi. Source: Pinterest.|
bloating, gas, diarrhea, constipation, fatigue (adrenal fatigue, spring fatigue, tired after a meal), depression, moodiness, anxiety, shooting pain, numbness, tingling of arms and legs, hormone imbalance (PMS, polycystic ovary syndrome, unexplained infertility), inflammation, swelling pain and joints, allergies, skin rashes, muscles cramping (caused by malabsorbtion of calcium), weight problems (not able to lose or gain weight), osteoporosis, migraine headache, Keratosis Pilaris "chicken skin" (mainly on the back of your arms), weakness ... just to name a few. Number of gluten sensitivity symptoms is more than 250.
Conventional medicine (I found information for the USA) has done poor job of diagnosing gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. It takes around 11 years for someone who is gluten sensitive to get a proper diagnose and they have to see at least five gastoentrologists. If doctors don't find gluten sensitivity of celiac disease, they usually don't check them for wheat allergies. It's estimated that 95 % of Americans are affected by gluten at some point.
Who should eat gluten-free diet?
I personally believe anyone would benefit from not eating gluten (especially women), however, the obvious candidates for gluten-free diet are (I only wrote some symptoms and information for each):
* those with autoimmune conditions:
- celiac disease: known symptoms are steatorrhea (a form of diarrhea), digestive issues - abdominal pain, vomiting, bloating, gas, brainfog, delayed growth in children, vitamin deficiencies and anemia, inability to gain weight, tooth decay, missed periods, infertility, low bone density;
- dermatitis herpetiformis: itchy skin rashes on buttocks, knees, elbows, back of the neck, scalp, hairline, face;
- gluten ataxia: mental confusion, disorientation, disorder in fine movements, balance and posture;
- other autoimmune disease: arthritis, lupus, thyroid disease, type 1 diabetes.
* those with Gluten Sensitivity (GS; also called gluten intolerance):
they don't experience physical symptoms, but they are more likely to have non digestive symptoms, including bone and joint pain, muscle cramps, weight loss, fatigue.
Gluten sensitivity is often misdiagnosed because doctors relate its symptoms to other causes. It is believed that many GS may affect more than 6 times as many people as celiac disease does. GS people don't have to cut back gluten completely, only 1 % of population is assumed to be in death danger consuming gluten (those with celiac disease).
* those with wheat allergies:
symptoms are abdominal cramps, diarrhea, nausea, vomitting, hives, headaches, migrains, swelling, trouble breathing, tiredness, lethargy. It's possible to have wheat allergy at the same time as celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.
Those people don't need to avoid barley and rye, however, some find that gluten-free diet works best for their lifestyle.
* those looking to live a healthy lifestyle:
can be only supporting and joining along with someone who has to eat gluten-free or exploring new tastes and combinations and gluten-free diet can help with weight loss or healthy weight gain (if not eating gluten-free products you can get in the stores, because they are full of sugar, high GI and other junk).
|I borrowed this book from a library and it's awesome. Even some information in this post is taken from this book. It has many tasty gluten-free recipes (some of them are even vegan). Source: Pinterest.|
How to start with gluten-free diet?
If you assume you are gluten sensitive or you are experiencing any of the mentioned symptoms, best way is to write a food diary and write down how do you feel and what symptoms are you having after each meal.
After that, determine to go on strict gluten-free diet for 60 days. Your body starts to heal immediately. Some people start to feel better within few days, others within few weeks or months. It usually takes 60 days for inflammation to begin to resolve. Those with severe sensitivity will need nine to twelve months before becoming symptom-free. The more strict you follow gluten-free diet, the faster the recovery.
So, what grains can you eat on gluten-free diet?
Well, I'm glad you asked :)
Amaranth, quinoa, corn, buckwheat, rice, wild rice, brown rice, millet, montina (Indian rice grass), oats (if not contaminated when grown or in factory; buy labeled "gluten-free"), sorghum, teff.
Flours you can use are: almond flour, coconut flour, gram flour (chickpea flour), oat flour (if not contaminated), buckwheat flour, millet flour, cashew flour, rice and brown rice flour, tapioca flour, yam flour, xantham gum, soy flour ...
Little bit more geeky today, but I still hope it was understandable and useful :)
If you have any more questions, use google :P or ask me ;)
For gluten free recipes search through my blog, there are also many good gluten-free cook books as well and you can find many useful information on the internet.
Happy gluten-free Saturday! :)