What in the world is Gluten?
Good Question!!! What is Gluten? What foods do I need to avoid if I am trying to eliminate Gluten from my diet? What is the difference between an allergy and an intolerance when it comes to Gluten? Are these questions that you have asked yourself recently? Let me see if I can help you to work through these, as these were ALL questions that I myself once had as well. *I am not a doctor or even an RN for that matter, but I have real life experience at this first hand, as I have been Gluten Intolerant for the last 8 ½ years.
Gluten is a protein that is found in Wheat, Rye, Tricticale and Barley. It starts with two protein strands, called Glutenin and Gliadin. And when mixed with water, their shapes change, linking them together to form Gluten.
Wheat is found in baked goods and often used as a thickener or binder in soups and sauces. Rye is part of the Wheat family, commonly used as a base for whiskey, breads and crackers. Tricticale is newer on the market, it is a hybrid grain, produced by crossing Wheat with Rye. Barley is commonly used as a flavoring as well as sometimes used as a thickener in soups. Other ingredients made from Barley include malt and maltose (AKA malt sugar) in cereals, malted milk, malt vinegar, beer, as well as some snack foods and protein bars.
Therefore, it is so important to learn about what ingredients are in your foods if you are trying to stick to a Gluten free diet. Many packaged foods CAN contain Gluten even if the ingredients do not include Wheat, Rye or Barley. Such as modified food starch or soy sauce, which DO contain Gluten. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics https://www.eatright.org/; here is a list of common processed foods that MAY contain Gluten, so if you consume ANY of the following then READ YOUR LABELS and INGREDIENTS CAREFULLY:
- Bouillon Cubes
- Brown Rice Syrup
- Cold cuts/ Salami/ Hot Dogs/ Sausages
- French Fries
- Imitation Fish or Crab (be careful of Sushi)
- Malt (malt syrup, malt extract, malted milk, malt vinegar)
- Modified Food Starch
- Rice Mixes
- Seasoned snack foods (chips)
- Soy Sauce
- Vegetables in sauces
However; MANYof these foods listed above CAN now be found in gluten free versions! You just need to know where to look! (Start at Sprouts, Whole Foods or Mother’s type specialty farmers markets.)
Now, let’s talk gluten allergy VS. intolerance.
(Both of which are completely different from Celiac’s Disease- we’ll get into that another time!) The differences between the two are described very well according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics; https://www.eatright.org/ a food allergy occurs when the body’s immune system reacts to a substance in food, which is usually a protein that your body sees as harmful. This sets off a chain reaction in your body which can cause a variety of symptoms. From a mild runny nose to severe and in some cases life threatening. Where in comparison, a food intolerance has different causes. An intolerance can occur when your body is unable to fully digest a certain component of the food, in our case here, Gluten. Symptoms of an intolerance may be unpleasant, but they are not life-threatening. I can speak from experience here, to where if I am “glutened” by accident, I may temporarily feel like my life has been threatened due to my frequent and violent bathroom visits (TMI!) but it usually subsides and goes away after about 8 hours (8 long, long miserable hours!).
Allergan labeling laws are covered by the FDA, so when a food contains “wheat” it must be labeled as such, “contains wheat”. However, there are many other “names” for wheat containing products which is why it is so important to read all ingredients listed on labels. http://www.kidswithfoodallergies.org/ published a “Wheat Allergy Avoidance List” to use as a great reference. All the following ingredients can be found on labels and indicate the presence of wheat. So, where a label might not have “wheat” spelled out, it may include one of the following instead:
All-purpose flour, Bread (including bread crumbs), Bulgur, Cereal Extract, Couscous, Cracker Meal, Einkorn, Emmer (or Farro), Farina, Flour, Fu, Gluten, Kamut, Malt or Malt Extract, Matzo, Noodles/Pasta, Seitan, Semolina, Spelt, Tabbouleh, Tricticale, Triticum, Wheat or Whole Wheat, Wheatgrass.
And can *sometimes* be found in:
Artificial/Natural flavoring, Caramel color, Dextrin, Food starches, Glucose Syrup, Hydrolyzed vegetable protein, Maltodextrin, MSG, Oats, Soy Sauce/Teriyaki Sauce/Shoyu Sauce, Textured Vegetable Protein and Vegetable Gum.