Aug 9, 2013

Gluten Myth and Facts

We read about way too many headlines and diets about gluten these days. It appears to be the latest fad ingredient to pick on. It is serious for some, but less than one percent of the population may have Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder. Some people have been found to be allergic to wheat only, but not gluten.

Gluten is a naturally occurring protein composite found primarily in wheat, but may also be found in rye, barley, and some types of oats. The US FDA considers foods containing less than or equal to 20 ppm to be gluten-free, but there is no regulation or law in the US for labeling foods as 'gluten-free'. There still is no general agreement on the analytical method used to measure gluten in ingredients and food products.

Gluten may be added as a stabilizing agent or thickener in products such as ice-cream and ketchup. It is also found in  ingredients of many over-the-counter and prescription medications and vitamins. Items such as lipstick, lip balms, lip gloss, soy sauce, barbecue sauce, salad dressings, gravy, canned soups, ground spices to prevent clumping, instant powdered drinks, and imitation and pasteurized cheeses, as well as glue used on envelopes may also contain gluten.

Many types of alcoholic beverages are considered gluten-free, provided no gluten colorings or other additives have been added. Distillation removes proteins, including gluten in bourbon or corn whiskey. Spirits made without any grain such as gin, vodka, scotch, rye, brandy, wine, mead, cider, sherry, port, rum, tequila, vermouth, and some beers generally do not contain gluten.

Gluten consists of gliadin and glutenin. Gliadin is one of the proteins that forms gluten. Doctors test for anti-gliadin antibodies if celiac disease or gluten hypersensitivity is suspected. Gliadin triggers immune response in celiac disease. Glutenin is the other protein of gluten. It is responsible for the strength and elasticity of dough.

Several grains and starch sources are considered acceptable for a gluten-free diet, such as corn, potatoes, rice, some oats, tapioca, quinoa, sorghum, taro, chia seed, and yam. Flours, such as bean, soybean, almond, gram derived from chickpeas, and buckwheat are used as alternatives to wheat flour.

Most humans naturally digest gluten. The human mouth contains symbiotic bacteria colonies that help break down gluten. Gluten allergies and sensitivities are different. Celiac disease sufferers are allergic. Others may have similar symptoms, such as bloating, flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome, and abdominal pain, but these same symptoms may also be caused by any number of other dietary items.