What is Gluten? | Gluten Intolerance and Gluten Free Diets

gluten diet

 

While you might or might not know what Gluten is, there is a high chance you have heard the word Gluten, Gluten free, Gluten allergy and what not.

Gluten containing food is pretty common and found in many food options we consume on a daily basis.

In this this article we will demystify the big word GLUTEN, its sources and uses, gluten sensitivity, and other food options for those with sensitivity.

 

What is Gluten?

It is a structural protein in cereal grains, basically Wheat, Barley, Rye, sometimes Oats (further explanation on Oats below).

Its major function is seen in how wheat flour stretches after kneading or mixing, it is a binding factor in flours. A very stretchy dough means the flour has high gluten content and it can also be added to other flours with low binding quality to improve on this.

It can also serve as additives in processed food, and thickeners in some foods and sauces. In baking it is responsible for the elastic nature of bread dough, the chewy texture of wheat made goods, in cakes and pancakes you are careful not to over mix the dough so you don’t activate the gluten and ruin the light and fluffy texture cakes should have.

 

Sensitivity to Gluten

Globally the awareness of Gluten intolerance, and diseases is already a raving trend. Most people have issues with gluten and some for some reasons best known to them have already excluded gluten containing food from their diets.

Although intolerance to Gluten can be developed, it can also be a genetic problem. A popular type of Gluten-related disease is Celiac disease, consumption of gluten foods in this condition could harm the small intestine.

Read more about Gluten-related disorders here

Common symptoms of Gluten sensitivity

  • Bloating
  • Headaches
  • Abdominal pain
  • Depression
  • Nausea
  • Irritation
  • And a host of others.

 

Gluten- Free Diet

Owing to how common Gluten-containing foods are, Gluten-free diet can be a little tricky to navigate.

Remember the sources of gluten; wheat, barley, rye. This simply means that foods like; white bread, wheat bread, pasta, biscuits, cakes, semolina, beer, granola, oatmeal, and malt drinks etc. contains varying amounts of gluten, the list goes on.

The thing with oats is, by itself Oats are gluten free, but they are also easily contaminated by gluten…. This could be from cultivation, to the processing and packaging due to proximity with other gluten grains. So unless it is specified Gluten-free do not trust that your oats/oat flour is gluten free.

Some good news to those that dearly need this diet is there are also vast options, because it is so common now; companies have gluten free snacks, restaurants serve gluten-free options, online, there are tons of contents and recipes on gluten free cooking and baking.

Champions in the Gluten-free corner

  • Rice
  • Potatoes
  • Coconuts
  • Oats
  • Corn (just like oats the risk of cross contamination is high.)
  • Vegetables
  • Basically nuts and legumes too.

Flours made from these serve as substitutes in baking, requires some study and practice but it’s nothing daunting, you just need to know what flours to combine and in what measure – you won’t miss the gluten packed stuff trust me.

 

Caution

  • Always read labels of packed food (this includes seasonings and bottled sauces), snacks and drinks.
  • Always ask for a gluten free option when eating out.
  • It might be difficult to adhere to a gluten free diet; but there are severe complications that could develop without withdrawal from gluten-containing food consumption.
  • Of course and most importantly, when you observe any of the listed symptoms; do the needful and seek medical attention.
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